New test will help identify viral cattle disease

March 30, 2010

( -- A University of Adelaide project could provide a breakthrough for a viral cattle disease costing Australian producers millions of dollars each year.

Bovine viral infects up to 90% of herds in Australia, leading to widespread production losses and increased susceptibility to other diseases, according to researcher Sasha Lanyon.

The Animal Science Honours student based at the University's Roseworthy Campus is working on a project to develop a pooled blood test to identify herds with an active infection and target those animals shedding the virus.

"This disease infects cattle herds worldwide and there are control and eradication programs in place in various European countries, but there is very little research into bovine viral diarrhoea in Australia," Sasha says.

Spot blood test samples of 82 beef and 32 dairy herds in 2008 by the Department of Primary Industries and Resources of South Australia (PIRSA) showed that the overwhelming majority of cattle had been exposed to bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD).

The virus is spread by close contact between cattle and manifests in different ways, resulting in respiratory infections, infertility or abortion, still births, mouth ulcers and severe weight loss among cattle.

Sasha has developed a pooled testing approach by combining blood samples from several animals in a random selection of . She is also testing bulk tank milk samples among dairy cattle.

"Testing pooled samples rather than spot tests can reduce the number of tests needed to identify the virus and, in turn, reduce the cost of testing for producers," she says. Spot tests cost in the order of $400 (15 animals are recommended for spot testing), compared to $24 for a one-off pooled test.

As part of her project Sasha is also looking at management practices which can increase the chances of cattle being infected with the virus.

A pestivirus vaccine is available for bovine viral diarrhoea but the 2008 PIRSA survey suggested that the vaccine was not yet widely used in South Australia.

"The risk of cattle contracting the virus can be decreased by pre-purchase testing of cattle and/or vaccination," Sasha says. "Unfortunately many farmers are not aware of the vaccine or choose not to use it."

Explore further: Bovine tuberculosis in wildlife threatens endangered lynx and cattle health

Related Stories

New test to identify illegal steroids in cattle

February 20, 2009

In an effort to curb the illegal use of steroids in the European beef industry, scientists in the United Kingdom are reporting the development of a new test that can identify steroids with higher accuracy, more convenience, ...

Breeding their horns off -- a winner

August 19, 2009

A team of scientists led by CSIRO's Dr Kishore Prayaga has been awarded a prestigious Australian Museum Eureka Prize for its work to develop a simple genetic test which has the potential to end the need to dehorn cattle in ...

Cows: More freedom may mean less milk

February 15, 2010

'Free-stall', untied cattle in small herds produce less milk than cows tied to their stalls but have a higher reproductive performance and suffer less teat injuries and metabolic diseases. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's ...

Scientists take animal breeding to the next level

March 18, 2010

( -- University of Alberta scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of two influential bulls, one beef and one dairy, the first animals to have been fully sequenced in Canada.

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.