By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer
Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer visited the Blue Grass Stockyards in Richmond on Thursday, where he and two veterinarians spoke to more than 60 farmers about about a viral infection this is threatening Kentucky cattle.
Bovine Viral Diarrhea-Persistent Infection, or BVD-PI, affects the respiratory and reproductive systems of cows and lowers their immune system. This makes the cows vulnerable to life-threatening illness such as pneumonia, said local veterinarian Ted Cundiff.
Most cows infected with BVD will recover from the virus if they are given antibiotics to fight infection. However, if a cow becomes infected while pregnant, her calf runs the risk of being PI positive, meaning it will be a carrier for the virus its entire life, increasing the chances that other cows in the herd will be infected, said State Veterinarian Bob Stout.
Cundiff stressed giving calves PI tests, so a lab can confirm whether or not a herd member is infected.
BVD-PI can be difficult to detect without medical testing, as it doesn't always affect the calf's size of appearance. The only accurate way to determine whether or not a calf has BVD-PI is to send a tissue sample, such as a notch from the calf's ear, to a lab.
Currently, farmers who have BVD-PI infected calves have three options, said state Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, who is a cattle farmer.
They can leave the calf in the herd, which will increase the need for antibiotics. They can kill the calf, which doesn’t offer any return on their investment. Or they can sell the calf at the stockyard, which then transfers the chance of infection to a new herd.
However, state law bans selling cattle with communicable diseases. But, sales still occur, likely due to how hard it is to determine whether or not a calf is infected.
“We ought to treat this just like we treated brucellosis cows in the 1970s,” Stout said. “This is severe sounding, but this is a severe disease.”
Stockyards manager Jim Dause suggested the state issue tags for cattle that have tested PI negative to boost the reputations of the farmers who test their herds.
Dause also suggested marking PI-positive cattle, so that they can be taken to a quarantine area. Because BVD-PI does not affect the quality of the beef from the calf, it could still be used for that purpose.
State Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, Berea City Council member Ronnie Terrill and County Clerk Kenny Barger.
Seth Littrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6623.