Ranchers, cattle feeders encouraged to sign up for BVD screening

BILLINGS - A pilot project to screen Montana cattle for persistent infection of bovine viral diarrhea is now a permanent program, says Clint Peck, director of the Montana Beef Quality Assurance programs for Montana State University.
calendar icon 27 January 2007
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Ranchers and cattle feeders can sign up any time for the 2007 Montana BVD-PI Herd Screening Project, Peck said. The ranchers and feeders do the work themselves, but they'll receive technical assistance and limited financial support through 2007. They'll also receive a screening kit. The project is supported by the Montana Stockgrowers Association and funded through the Montana Beef Network. Participation is free and voluntary.

"The project is designed to improve the overall health of Montana's cow herd and add value to the state's calf crop," Peck said.

Bovine viral diarrhea, also known as BVD, can inhibit conception and cause abortions in susceptible cows, Peck said. It suppresses the immune system, making animals more vulnerable to other diseases. BVD can be transmitted from a pregnant cow to her unborn calf, causing the calf to have persistent infection (PI). Meat from the infected cattle is no threat to consumers, Peck said. The disease has no human health implications.

Nearly 30 ranches representing about 15,000 head of cattle have already signed up for the 2007 screening program. The goal is to screen at least 100,000 calves this year.

"We can make a serious dent in the prevalence of this disease if we can screen 100,000 calves for persistent infection," said MSU Extension Beef Specialist John Paterson. "Montana ranchers should feel proud of the leadership they've demonstrated in this voluntary industry-driven approach to animal health management."

Peck said the annual cost of one persistently-infected animal in a cow herd can range from $14 to $24 per cow. But for less than $2 a head, Montana ranchers can identify infected animals and separate them from the herd before they infect susceptible herd mates.

"Then it becomes a win-win situation for the rancher and for whoever might own the cattle once they leave the ranch," Peck said.

Paterson said, "We're starting to see interest from cattle buyers and cattle feeders around the region who want to locate calves that are PI free. This could develop into an added-value market for ranchers who invest in a screening program."

Bruce Hoffman, a veterinarian at Churchill, Mont., and president of Animal Profiling International which is providing testing services for the Montana program, said the BVD virus could be eliminated from cow herds across the country with a sound vaccination and cattle management program, coupled with strategic PI testing. Hoffman has assisted ranchers, cattle feeders and veterinarians from California to Georgia who want to eliminate BVD-PI.

"Through programs like the Montana BVD-PI Herd Screening Project, we can dramatically reduce this disease in cow herds," Hoffman said. "And in doing so, we can help Montana ranchers produce better quality beef more efficiently."

Montana's screening program began as a pilot project in 2006. Sixty-five ranches representing more than 38,000 head of beef cattle participated last year.

To sign up for the 2007 program, contact Clint Peck at (406) 896-9068, (406) 671-0851 or [email protected]. Otherwise, go on the Web at www.mtbqa.org (Use Flash Player) and sign up under "Projects."

Further information

Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD)

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