The primary source of data on bovine respiratory disease (BRD) prevalence in U.S. adult dairy cattle is producer surveys, which estimate that 2.4–2.9% of cattle are affected. This estimate appears low when compared to calculations based on limited data regarding on-farm deaths due to BRD, and the number of carcasses at slaughter with severe BRD. These calculations indicate that approximately 3% of dairy cows die on farm or go to slaughter with severe BRD. Not included in these data are cows that are treated for BRD and retained.
The primary manifestation of BRD on dairy farms is in calves. Nationwide surveys have estimated that 12.4–16.4% of preweaned dairy heifer calves are affected with BRD, and 5.9–11% of calves are affected after weaning. More detailed prevalence studies have generally included a limited number of small farms, with limited calf age range studied. All studies relied on producer diagnosis. Prevalence in these studies ranged from 0 to 52%, with many cases occurring before weaning, and with BRD being associated with increased calf death rates. BRD affects heifer growth. It appears to have a small effect on age at first calving, and some studies have shown small effects on performance and herd life after calving. First lactation performance of heifers depends on many factors that can obscure the effects of calfhood BRD.