Reproductive and economic impact following controlled introduction of cattle persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus into a naive group of heifers.
The reproductive impact following controlled introduction of animals persistently infected (PI) with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) was evaluated in BVDV-naive heifers. Heifers were randomly allocated into two groups: an unexposed control herd (n=34) and a herd exposed to five persistently infected (PI) animals for 7 mo, beginning 50 days before the breeding season (n=34). Initiation of the BVDV-challenge was timed to mimic either direct contact with PI calves born in the previous calving season or accidental introduction of PI herd additions prior to the breeding season. The PI animals represented BVDV Types 1a (n=3), 1b (n=1) and 2 (n=1). Two BVDV-free, seropositive bulls were used in each group for 78 days breeding seasons. In both groups, 33 of 34 heifers became pregnant, with similar distribution of fetal ages. Two heifers in each group aborted (etiology undetermined). In addition, one calf was born dead and one calf died 3 days post-partum in the BVDV-exposed group. One calf in the unexposed group died 4 mo post-partum. No calves, including the stillborn calf and the two calves that died prior to weaning, were persistently infected with BVDV. In summary, introduction of PI cattle to a group of BVDV-naive heifers 50 days prior to the breeding season did not negatively impact reproductive performance. To the contrary, the active immunity that developed following field exposure to BVDV provided effective reproductive and fetal protection during the breeding season and subsequent gestations, despite continuous exposure to PI animals until approximately midgestation. Although BVDV can have potentially devastating reproductive effects, timing of infection is a critical determinant in the outcome of a BVDV infection. A controlled breeding season with introduction of herd additions at less critical reproductive time points can mitigate the negative reproductive health consequences of BVDV.