Develop a BVD control plan

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Editor's note: An additional video discussing exposure and testing stategies to control BVD can be watched here.

Both beef and dairy producers have been working toward eliminating bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) for many years, with different levels of success from operation to operation. While vaccinations are effective, even the operations that have been successful in eradicating BVD from their herd must maintain a BVD control plan to continue to protect their operation and operations around the country.

“We certainly see niches and areas (in the United States) where we have been totally successful in eradicating BVD,” says Dan Givens, veterinarian with Auburn University. “We also see situations where if we don’t maintain vigilance and preventative measures, we see BVD recurring.”

Producers must be familiar with the warning signs of BVD in order to move toward and maintain eradication. If calves show signs of respiratory difficulties, bloody diarrhea and neurological diseases, or cows appear infertile or suffer from abortions, it is important to work with your veterinarian to assess your herd status and begin a BVD control plan.  

Givens outlined his top three management tools that producers should implement to help prevent BVD on their operations:

  1. Know your status. Producers should perform BVD tests if they notice any common disease indicators and monitor the results to create a baseline for their herd.
  2. Be mindful of biosecurity and biocontainment. Avoid bringing new animals onto your operation unless they have already been tested. Additionally, producers should refrain from mixing animals from different groups together for at least 45 days.
  3. Vaccinate. Immunize your herd against infection. Properly vaccinated cows can resist BVD challenge and protect the fetus, which reduces the chance of producing a persistently infected (PI) calf that will continue to spread BVD.

Givens says if you suspect individual calves are infected with BVD, the calves should be ear notched and tissue samples sent to a laboratory for an ELISA or an immunohistochemistry test. If tests show individual calves are infected, the entire calf crop should be tested to measure the extent to which BVD has spread.

“The testing ranges anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 per animal, and we can get a real sense of the entire herd and whether or not we have any persistently infected animals in the herd, and that’s a critical part of having a total BVD control program,” he says.

Even if an operation is seemingly BVD free, there are many ways a herd can be exposed.

“Animals can be exposed to BVD through being exposed to animals that are acutely infected or to animals that are persistently infected with BVD,” Givens says.

Givens also reminds producers that a persistently infected cow will always give birth to a persistently infected calf. However, just because you have a persistently infected calf does not mean its dam was persistently infected; she may have just been exposed to BVD during gestation, so testing is key to understanding your BVD baseline. 

Having a control plan in place can help prevent a BVD outbreak before it becomes a significant problem. Talk with your local veterinarian about developing a comprehensive BVD control plan to continue to protect your herd.


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