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Angus Productions Inc.
Copyright © 2009
Angus Productions Inc.

Producers Want Other Cattlemen to Recognize BVD is ‘Real’

BVDV Symposium producer session, Jan. 27, 2009


PHOENIX, Ariz. (Jan. 27, 2009) — “I want producers to know BVD (bovine viral diarrhea) is real,” James Palmer of the Matador Ranches said during his presentation to attendees at the applied science session of the 2009 BVDV Symposium Jan. 27, 2009, in Phoenix, Ariz. Palmer and two other producers — Bill Rishel of Nebraska and Tom Hougen of Montana — shared their experiences in testing for BVD in their cow herds.


Matador Ranches has cow-calf and stocker operations in Texas, Montana and Kansas. Palmer relayed that in their Kansas operation they have been testing for BVD since 2004. Abortions and respiratory problems among calves indicated there was a herd health issue. Of the losses due to those health issues, he said, “It’s expensive.”


To combat BVD, Matador Ranches is now testing its calf crop, testing purchased yearlings, testing the cow herd as needed, and vaccinating cows and calves at the Kansas operation, Palmer shared.


He advised producers who suspect BVD in their herds to begin an elimination and control effort by testing groups of calves. Then, if BVD is confirmed, test the cows.


“You really need to look closely at what the signs are because BVD may not be obvious,” he said. “You do not know what a persistently infected (PI) calf looks like,” he added, noting PI calves can appear healthy.


Nebraska Angus breeder Bill Rishel shared that BVD control really is part of a whole herd biosecurity program.


“If you only look at controlling BVD, it’s a lot like single-trait selection,” he said. Instead, Rishel emphasized that herd health should be approached by keeping cow herd records, focusing on nutrition, having vaccination protocols and overall management.


Of BVD testing within herds, Rishel said, “I think there is a huge obligation of purebred breeders to do these things. We owe it to our customers. … I’d tell anybody not to buy a bull that isn’t tested.”


Montana rancher Tom Hougen shared that after battling several sick calves postweaning in the fall of 2002, a year later he finally tested his herd and confirmed that BVD was the culprit. He had not previously been vaccinating or testing for BVD. In the six years since, Hougen has worked with his veterinarian to implement a control plan for his herd. He now vaccinates cows and calves annually against BVD. If any suspect or dead calves are found they are tested. He estimated the BVD infection in his herd cost about $25,000 in lost animals and performance.


“I had no clue that calves could be persistently infected with BVD,” he said. “Until it hits you at home, you have no idea.”


Hougen is now a firm believer in the importance of educating other producers about BVD. His message to other producers is this: “If you’ve got a BVD problem in your herd, don’t hide it. Go to your neighbors and the person who buys your calves, work with them to solve the problem.”


Palmer added, “If you find a PI animal, don’t take him to the sale barn. It is a moral obligation to take that animal out of the U.S. cattle herd.


Editor’s Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API), which claims copyright to this article. It may not be published or distributed without the express permission of Angus Productions Inc. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at (816) 383-5270.