Losses over a 2-year period associated with fetal infection with the bovine viral diarrhea virus in a beef cow-calf herd in Saskatchewan


In 1992, significant calf losses occurred between birth and weaning in a 650-cow Saskatchewan beef herd. These losses occurred subsequent to ill-thrift and disease, and every calf necropsied was found to be persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV). The objectives of this study were to describe the losses associated with fetal infection with BVDV in this herd and to determine why they occurred. For investigative purposes, blood samples were collected from the entire cow herd and the surviving calves at pregnancy testing in 1992, and tested by virus isolation for BVDV. Between 51 and 71 persistently infected calves were born in 1992. Bovine viral diarrhea virus was only isolated from calves. The only confirmed fetal infections with BVDV were recorded as the birth of persistently infected calves. However, abortions, reduced pregnancy rates, and delayed calvings were also recorded in the cow herd and may have been the result of fetal infections. The herd was monitored again in 1993. Fetal infections with BVDV were recorded as the birth of stunted, deformed, and persistently infected calves. The greatest losses due to fetal infection with BVDV in the 2 years of this study occurred in cows that were 3-years-old at calving (second calves). Bovine viral diarrhea virus appears to have remained endemic in this herd by transmission from persistently infected calves on young 3- and 4-year-old cows to naive calved 2-year-old cows that were mingled with them annually for rebreeding. Significant numbers of the 2-year-old cows remained naive to BVDV, because they were segregated from persistently infected calves at weaning, preventing cross-infection with BVDV.

Taylor LF, Janzen ED, and Van Donkersgoed J. Can Vet J. 1997 January; 38(1): 23–28.