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Associations between health and productivity in cow-calf beef herds and persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea virus, antibodies against bovine viral diarrhea virus, or antibodies against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus in calves

Cheryl L. Waldner DVM, PhD1 and Richard I. Kennedy DVM, PhD2
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  • 1 Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.
  • | 2 Pincher Creek, AB T0K 1W0, Canada.

Abstract

Objective—To measure associations between health and productivity in cow-calf beef herds and persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), antibodies against BVDV, or antibodies against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) virus in calves.

Animals—1,782 calves from 61 beef herds.

Procedures—Calf serum samples were analyzed at weaning for antibodies against type 1 and type 2 BVDV and IBR virus. Skin biopsy specimens from 5,704 weaned calves were tested immunohistochemically to identify persistently infected (PI) calves. Herd production records and individual calf treatment and weaning weight records were collected.

Results—There was no association between the proportion of calves with antibodies against BVDV or IBR virus and herd prevalence of abortion, stillbirth, calf death, or nonpregnancy. Calf death risk was higher in herds in which a PI calf was detected, and PI calves were more likely to be treated and typically weighed substantially less than herdmates at weaning. Calves with high antibody titers suggesting exposure to BVDV typically weighed less than calves that had no evidence of exposure.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—BVDV infection, as indicated by the presence of PI calves and serologic evidence of infection in weaned calves, appeared to have the most substantial effect on productivity because of higher calf death risk and treatment risk and lower calf weaning weight.

Abstract

Objective—To measure associations between health and productivity in cow-calf beef herds and persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), antibodies against BVDV, or antibodies against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) virus in calves.

Animals—1,782 calves from 61 beef herds.

Procedures—Calf serum samples were analyzed at weaning for antibodies against type 1 and type 2 BVDV and IBR virus. Skin biopsy specimens from 5,704 weaned calves were tested immunohistochemically to identify persistently infected (PI) calves. Herd production records and individual calf treatment and weaning weight records were collected.

Results—There was no association between the proportion of calves with antibodies against BVDV or IBR virus and herd prevalence of abortion, stillbirth, calf death, or nonpregnancy. Calf death risk was higher in herds in which a PI calf was detected, and PI calves were more likely to be treated and typically weighed substantially less than herdmates at weaning. Calves with high antibody titers suggesting exposure to BVDV typically weighed less than calves that had no evidence of exposure.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—BVDV infection, as indicated by the presence of PI calves and serologic evidence of infection in weaned calves, appeared to have the most substantial effect on productivity because of higher calf death risk and treatment risk and lower calf weaning weight.

Contributor Notes

Supported by the Western Interprovincial Scientific Studies Association (WISSA) and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica (Canada).

The data in this paper were collected as part of the field research activities for the Western Canada Study of the Animal Health Effects Associated with Exposure to Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Field Facilities.

Address correspondence to Dr. Waldner.