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Important Steps to Control BVD in Your Herd!

by Dr. Terri Taraska, Professional Services Veterinarian

Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, BVD, continues to be a problem on dairies. Salmonellosis, coccidiosis, reproductive problems and other opportunistic diseases are often more prevalent in herds with BVD. This virus causes respiratory problems, fetal wastage, diarrhea in both cows and calves and infertility in bulls. When infections with BVD occur during pregnancy between 40-130 days of gestation, persistently infected (PI) calves may result. While many of the calves die at an early age, some PI animals survive to become replacement heifers, steers or breeding bulls. These PI animals shed the virus to infect other animals. An important strategy is to identify the PI animals and remove them from the herd as soon as possible.

BVD can cause losses between $20 and $160 per cow. The persistently infected (PI) animal is well recognized as the main culprit for continued spread of the virus. Following these steps will help control BVD PI in your dairy herd:


Vaccinate the herd pre-breeding with a modified-live viral (MLV) vaccine labeled for prevention of PI calves. Some manufacturers even offer a guarantee on their vaccine, and will pay for the diagnostics to retest the calf and reimburse the producer for fair market value of their calf if that calf tests PI positive. While vaccination is a critical part of a BVD control plan, vaccination alone is not sufficient to eliminate the risk of BVD.


A bulk tank sample is a great surveillance tool for monitoring your milking herd for the presence of a PI. Test the bulk tank quarterly. If positive, further string and individual testing can be done to identify and remove the PI.


Testing of ALL newborn calves, including heifers, bulls, and aborted fetuses, is important to eliminate PI calves. Test the dam of all PI positive calves and remove all positives from the herd.


Preventing the introduction of PIs is as simple as testing new animals on arrival, or better yet, requiring that animals be tested PI negative prior to purchase. Testing a bred animal, however, does not determine the status of the fetus.


Removal of PI animals should result in improved reproductive performance, improved calf health and weaning weights, lower calf treatment costs, reduced calf death loss and more marketable BVD-free cattle.

Partnering with Animal Profiling International (API), ANIMART now offers a simple, accurate and cost-effective testing program to identify the presence of PI positive animals in your herd. Using bulk tank samples, standard ear notch samples or blood/serum samples the ANIMART staff can work with dairy and beef owners, managers and veterinarians to identify PIs and develop BVD control plans to keep BVD out of the herd. A comprehensive program including vaccination, testing and culling will improve the overall health and economic return of your herd.

Contact one of ANIMART’s professional services veterinarians to discuss how we can help you implement a BVD Control Program on your operation.

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