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Don't let BVD steal your profit

Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) control should be at the top of any cow-calf producer’s disease prevention list. BVD Type 1b, seen lately in more herds and especially persistently infected (PI) calves, is a subgenotype strain of the BVD virus that cattle producers should be aware of and provide protection for in their vaccine programs, says Dr. Jerry Woodruff, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI).

“With calves projected to pencil-out a $500-plus per head profit again this year, it’s vital to keep cattle healthy and performing at their fullest,” Woodruff says. “There’s too much money at stake. If a herd is exposed to BVD, excessive death loss and certainly poor cattle performance will cut deeply into a rancher’s profit potential.”

BVD is often branded as the most costly virus associated with cattle production. It costs producers, stocker operators and feeders hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It’s an infection that can cause widespread problems. It can damage the digestive system, complicate respiratory infections, depress the animal’s immune system and cause multiple reproductive failures including early embryonic death, birth defects, abortions, and PI calves.  BVD can cause high mortality rates in calves and yearling cattle.

“The PI calf is thought to be the most common source of BVD for the cowherd,” Woodruff says. “With the cost of replacement heifers at an all-time high, bred heifers easily topping $2,200 or more, and the value of their calves at close to $1,500 at weaning, the spread of BVD by a PI calf can be devastating financially.”

There are various strains of BVD in cattle. They are BVD Type 1a, BVD Type 1b and BVD Type 2. Woodruff says a modified live vaccine (MLV) program is typically used 30 to 60 days pre-breeding to control BVD and other respiratory and reproductive diseases.

“For a cattle producer, a vaccine program is very helpful to prevent not only the respiratory form of BVD, but also the reproductive form of BVD,” he says. “However, there is some concern that those two forms of disease may not be covered by some of the current vaccination programs.

“One of the reasons for concern is that the vaccines currently available have BVD Type 1a and BVD Type 2 in them, but not BVD Type 1b, which is being found more recently in laboratory samples and in PI calves.

“With the 1b issue, one would think we should put the 1b virus in the vaccine for the cattle. But it has been demonstrated that some viral vaccines can provide protection for BVD Type 1a and Type 1b without having to subject an animal to an extra virus strain in the vaccine.”

Good BVD protection is available 

Woodruff says that, while the Pyramid® 5 + Presponse® SQ MLV from BIVI contains only BVD Type 1a and BVD Type 2a, “this vaccination program recently received a new label claim for protection against BVD Type 1b for at least 217 days.

“The new claim helps producers protect against the most common form of BVD we’re seeing in PI calves. It will help prevent the spread of BVD throughout their herds.”

Woodruff adds that the same BVD protection found in the PYRAMID 5 + PRESPONSE SQ MLV vaccine is evident in the BIVI Express® FP vaccine for cows. EXPRESS FP is labeled to prevent PI calves ‑ including BVD 1b ‑ for 365 days. 

“Start” the immune system early

A proper MLV vaccination program should start when calves are 30 to 60 days old. “If we start a vaccination program in a young calf, we can help ‘start’ its immune process in preventing BVD Type 1b and respiratory disease,” Woodruff says.

“On the reproductive side in the cow herd, producers should start their vaccination program at 30 to 60 days before breeding. If we get an MLV in that cow prior to breeding, we have a good chance of preventing that Type 1b PI calf from being formed.”

Woodruff says keeping BVD out of the herd will likely help control other diseases as well. “BVD is a very immunosuppressive virus,” he explains. “If an animal is infected with BVD, it makes its immune system susceptible to other viral and bacterial diseases. So if we can control BVD, we have a lot better chance of controlling some of the other diseases that affect cattle from a respiratory and reproductive standpoint.”

Consult your veterinarian

In developing an animal health program that includes BVD control, Woodruff encourages producers to work with a licensed veterinarian to develop the most prudent vaccination program for their particular situation.

“It has always been important to have the largest percentage calf crop possible and keep them healthy throughout the production cycle,” he says. “Especially now, if we can use a good cow vaccine to prevent abortions and other pregnancy wastage, and a good calf vaccine to prevent losses from respiratory disease, it just makes a lot of sense.”

Pyramid® 5 + Presponse® SQ provides broad coverage against BVD Types 1 and 2, IBR, BRSV, PI3 and Mannheimia haemolytica. PYRAMID 5 + PRESPONSE SQ delivers enhanced efficacy with the help of the MetaStim® adjuvant system, enhancing the animal’s response to the vaccine for greater protection. Find more information on Pyramid® 5 + Presponse® SQ  here.

The EXPRESS FP family of vaccines was designed specifically for reproductive protection and offers combinations to protect against the reproductive and respiratory diseases your herd faces, including BVD Types 1 and 2 (including 1b), IBR, PI3, BRSV, vibrio and leptospirosis. Find more information on the EXPRESS FP vaccines here.


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