Our Farm’s BVD Train Wreck

Thanks to Bill Elkins for this helpful article! In the summer of 2009  we  had a wreck  in our Angus cow-calf program  (Buck Run Farm) in  Southeast PA. Yearlings did not grow, heifers did not breed. It was hot alright, and we have plenty of toxic Tall Fescue. Summer slump was not new to us, but this was something else again.  We were looking at 4-500 pound yearling weights and 200 pound weaning weights; about 100% below normal.  Preg checks in early fall showed mostly open cows and confirmed imminent disaster. Our vet, Dr. Billy Smith, of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, called for ear punch biopsies for the entire herd.  He suspected Bovine Viral Diarrhea was the problem in spite of the fact that we had a  rigorous vaccination program in place for many years. Well, he was spot on.  Biopsies from 3 spring calves were loaded with BVD virus. As is not uncommon, these 3 appeared no worse-off  than their contemporaries.  But they were apparently sending viral challenges  to the rest of the herd so that they spent the summer fighting off these challenges rather than growing and breeding. Once the 3 offenders were dispatched, the herd bloomed. We continued testing all newborns in the following three calving seasons and found one more with a positive BVD test. Of course his time in the herd was much shorte

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3 thoughts on “Our Farm’s BVD Train Wreck

  1. Hey Bill
    I grew up on a dairy farm in Massachusetts. Remember it well and sometimes wish I was still on one.
    Best, Darcy

  2. Bill,

    This was an excellent article! It would be nice if we could follow the Norwegians footsteps and implement a program in the US. I wonder if the disease can remain dormant in the soil and cattle pick it up that way?


    1. Don- It sure would be nice to follow the Norwegian path, but also very expensive and politically fraught. According to our vet, Doc Smith, the virus transmits via mucosal contact -licking, kissing, etc. and would not survive in soil or forage. thanks for your interest Bill

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