A new report from the USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System shows a growing awareness of BVDV, but information gaps remain and few producers test for the virus.

Following are some key points from the report summary:

  • The cattle industry has made significant efforts in recent years to control BVDV in cattle, facilitated by a more complete understanding of the disease, availability of diagnostics for
    detecting animals persistently infected with BVDV, and a better idea of the economic impact of the disease.
  • The knowledge gained in the epidemiology of BVDV and the improvement in diagnostic tools have made the control of BVDV feasible.
  • In the NAHMS 2007–08 Beef Cow-calf study, only 12.3 percent of cow-calf operations had not heard of BVDV, and 64 percent of operations knew some basics or were fairly knowledgeable about the virus. These results are likely a reflection of the substantial coverage the agriculture media has devoted to BVDV in the past few years.
  • Relatively few producers, 4.2 percent, had done any testing of calves for persistent infection with the virus in the past 3 years.
  • Larger operations (200 or more beef cows) were much more likely than smaller operations to have tested calves for persistent infection with BVDV in the past 3 years (15.6 percent of operations).
  • The low overall rate of testing might indicate that most producers do not believe their herd is at risk. Producers might also believe that the cost–benefit ratio for controlling the disease is prohibitive.
  • In the survey, 46.6 percent of cow-calf operations did not know if removing calves that tested positive for persistent infection with BVDV would affect the value of the remaining calves in the herd.
  • Among operations that vaccinated any cattle for any diseases, 80.7 percent vaccinated at least some calves at 22 days of age through weaning and 61.2 percent vaccinated weaned replacement heifers before breeding.
  • Overall, 66.7 percent of producers believed that BVDV was a significant problem for the U.S. beef industry.
  • The ear-notch testing done during the Beef 2007–08 study confirmed, as have other studies, that animals persistently infected with BVDV are relatively infrequent.
  • Of the 205 cow-calf operations that submitted ear-notch samples for BVDV testing, only 8.8 percent had one or more persistently infected animals identified.
  • Among the 44,150 ear-notch samples collected and tested, only 53 (0.12 percent) were positive for the BVDV antigen.
  • While it is tempting to ignore such a small fraction of the total calf crop, these animals have a tremendous capacity to transmit the infection to other animals in the herd or to other groups of cattle in which they come in contact.
  • A number of feedlots have noted the substantial impact of animals persistently infected with BVDV on in-contact cattle and have instituted screening programs to remove them at arrival.
  • In some cases it appears that groups of calves that test negative for persistent infection with BVDV sell at a higher price than comparable groups that have not been tested.

For more information, visit www.nahms.aphis.usda.gov.