KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Controlling bovine viral diarrhea is like managing a weed control district. Everyone has to do their part or the problem persists.
Estimating the economic damage of BVD is difficult because its impacts are wide ranging from sickly calves to the cost of treatment and death losses.
Estimated annual losses in the United States are $1.5 to $2.5 billion.
“There are some reported estimates that go as high as $3 billion,” said Derrell Peel, a professor of agribusiness at Oklahoma State University, who presented his cost estimates during an April 7 BVD symposium in Kansas City, Missouri.
Cow-calf losses could be $17 to $28 per head, while the dairy side may experience even higher losses.
Feedlots could lose $20 to $45 per animal.
“It is a big number, and it is an important number. It is not a trivial number,” Peel said. “What we spend on preventive measures could be added onto this.”
There are also other impacts.
The U.S. calf crop percentage was 86 percent in 2014.
“If you could take out those BVD impacts, how much would this change,” he said.
The industry struggles to estimate losses or prevalence because many producers may not recognize they have the disease on their farms.
“You are not going to control something if you do not recognize it. Why did the calf die?”
A Kansas feedlot survey calculated average death loss at 1.5 percent per month with some seasonal abnormalities.
However, some surveys show death losses have increased over time, especially among 650 pound calves. Not all are the result of BVD, but it should be considered.
“Death losses have increased in feedlots over time, so that raises a whole lot of questions on what is going on there,” he said.
There is little incentive to identify and remove persistently infected animals that spread the disease rapidly among herd mates.
“With the incidence rates there are not many of them, but when you have them, they can cause quite a severe problem,” Peel said.
“It is not the animal that is persistently infected in the herd, it is the fact that there is one in the herd,.”
They should not be sold if infection is suspected.
“People are not necessarily unscrupulous, but sometimes it convenient not to know,” he said.
“If you do know, you have to fall on the sword and take the hit on those calves rather than risk sending those calves down the road to someone else.”
Vaccination and testing costs are going down, but neither is always perfect.
Broad based testing is expensive and may not be justified in all cases.
“Because of the low incidence, there are a number of studies that show with the cost of testing it was not a clear cut economic answer that you should test everything, all the time,” he said.
Biosecurity must be included to make these other components work.
Producers who want to eradicate the disease rather than control must determine how much that will cost and how it can it done.