Performance, survival, necropsy, and virological findings from calves persistently infected with the bovine viral diarrhea virus originating from a single Saskatchewan beef herd.
Fifty-one calves from 652 cows and heifers that calved on a Saskatchewan ranch in 1992 were identified as persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), based on virological and necropsy findings. Herd records suggested a further 20 calves that died between birth and weaning were probably also persistently infected. Subsequent to weaning, all surviving persistently infected calves were transferred to one pen in a 10,000 head commercial feedlot, to mimic normal management practice in western Canadian beef herds. On average, when compared with healthy, BVDV-negative herdmates, persistently infected calves were "poor doers" and had poor survivability, with only 4 persistently infected calves surviving to 1 year of age. There was no difference (P > 0.05) in survival between male and female persistently infected calves. The clinical, pathological, and virological findings from these persistently infected calves varied over time. The majority of persistently infected calves had gross pathological lesions at necropsy, consistent with mucosal disease. However, approximately 25% of the persistently infected calves had gross pneumonic lesions at necropsy, with no or only mild lesions of mucosal disease. A wide variety of other lesions were also noted in persistently infected calves at necropsy. Therefore, the possibility that BVDV-induced lesions can be misdiagnosed is very real. The results of this study indicate that persistent infection with BVDV should always be considered in calves with chronic ill thrift, chronic enteritis, or respiratory disease.