This virus is the most significant cause of reproductive wastage


“BVD virus is the most important viral disease of cattle in NZ affecting beef cattle”. This virus is the most significant cause of reproductive wastage caused by an infectious agent in beef herds in new Zealand and contributes to poor growth rates of young breeding cattle causing a potential reduction in life time performance in the beef herd. The main method of disease spread is by direct contact with infectious material from an infected animal (virus in oral, eye and nasal discharges, faeces, urine, milk,and semen).

The virus does not survive for long in the environment but is stable below 10°C. (It will survive deep freezing of bull semen).Blood testing survey work at slaughterhouses indicate that > 75% of beef herds have had exposure to BVD virus.

Losses from infection include:

  • Reproductive effects in cows infected close to mating or when pregnant including:higher empty rates, abortion, mummified foetuses, early embryonic loss, stillborn or weak “dummy calves”.
  • Diarrhoea when initially infected – mainly seen in young growing stock
  • Suppression of the immune system ­ animals become more susceptible to other infectious conditions
  • Temporary infertility in bulls for a period of months
  • Some calves will be born persistently infected (PI)

While most PI animals are “healthy”, most will die in the first 24 months of illthrift related diseases (parasitism, enteritis, pneumonia) and some develop fatal “mucosal disease”.

Mucosal disease occurs only in PI animals when the existing (NCP­non cytopathic) strain mutates to a (CP­cytopathic). Once mutation has occurred in one PI animal, it can spread to other PI animals and result in an outbreak of mucosal disease.A variety of tests can be done on bloods and tissue samples.

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The Impact

BVD is robbing our cattle industry of millions of dollars in revenue­ not only affecting individual farmers but also NZ’s economy.For beef farmers, it’s a cost of between $3000 and $9000 for every 100 cows in infected herds.
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Management and control

Control of BVD involves a combination of testing, biosecurity and vaccination.
Risk management involves having a programme in place to ensure the virus is not introduced to the herd via bulls or replacement stock, vaccinating young stock, preventing over the fence animal contact and regular surveillance testing of young breeding stock.

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