Researchers Work to Eradicate BVD from U.P.

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Dan Grooms (view larger image)

Is it possible to eradicate bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula cattle herds?

This is the question that MAES researchers, Extension specialists, and local and state large animal veterinarians are asking as they continue to implement an aggressive three-step animal disease eradication program with the region’s producers. The plan includes incorporating equal doses of education about the disease, disease testing and training to put disease control management strategies into practice.

BVD is a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly through a herd. Animals infected with the virus encounter reproduction and productivity problems that can lead to thousands of dollars in losses for a farm. It is estimated that BVD is the most costly viral disease in today’s U.S. cattle herds, costing an estimated $2 billion per year.

“BVD is an underlying issue on many farms,” said Dan Grooms, MAES large animal clinical scientist and a large animal veterinarian. “BVD can cause reproduction problems and abortions in cattle. It can also inhibit the immune system, which leads to many other issues, including pneumonia.”

The MSU team has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pfizer Animal Health and the MSU Animal Agriculture Initiative to develop producer education programs in the Upper Peninsula to help rid the region of this costly animal disease.

“One of our objectives is to see if it’s possible to eradicate a specific disease within a geographical area,” Grooms said. “We chose the Upper Peninsula because of its easily defined region. If we are successful with this program in this area, we will implement it in other regions of the state.”

Grooms, along with Steve Bolin, MAES scientist with the MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, and Ben Bartlett, MSU Extension dairy and livestock educator, launched the BVD eradication program with a series of producer meetings in December 2007. Following these meetings, Bartlett visited with individual farmers about becoming involved with the eradication program. Through the program, farmers learned proper vaccination and biosecurity measures. The herds were also tested to determine the rate of infection, if any, present in each herd.

“The key to eradicating BVD from a herd is to eliminate any persistently infected (PI) cattle,” Grooms said. “PI cattle transmit the virus to their unborn fetuses. The PI cows become unsuspecting disease reservoirs, spreading the disease both on and between farms.”

Jim Kronenmeyer and his father, John, own a 250-head registered Holstein herd in Pickford, Mich. Four years ago, they unknowingly brought one PI heifer into their herd. That one cow caused the loss of more than 30 calves and cost them thousands of dollars in animal losses, genetic losses and milk production.

“We now know the importance of testing all animals and taking measures to control this disease,” Jim Kronenmeyer said. “We encouraged everyone to go to the meeting to learn about controlling the disease. We wish we would have had this information a few years earlier.”

The Kronenmeyers are still working through the devastation caused by the BVD outbreak in their herd. They lost more than a dozen calves before they determined that BVD was present in the herd. It was at that point that they tested all the animals in the herd and culled nearly 30 more to eradicate the disease from the herd. They now ear-notch any new animals coming into the herd and keep them in quarantine until they get the test results back.

The Kronenmeyers’ biosecurity measures are in line with the information presented by the MSU researchers. Bartlett and Grooms are working to explain the importance of testing all animals and screening any new animals before they enter the herd, as well as stressing the need for proper vaccination programs.

The program will continue over the next three years, eventually reaching more than 90 percent of the cattle in the Upper Peninsula.


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