Serological evidence for exposure to bovine viral diarrhoea virus in sheep co-grazed with beef cattle in New Zealand

Serological evidence for exposure to bovine viral diarrhoea virus in sheep co-grazed with beef cattle in New Zealand
Peer reviewed

Abstract

Aims: To determine whether sheep that co-grazed with cattle that were suspected to be positive for bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) virus had serological evidence of exposure to the virus.

Methods: Eighteen commercial farms that routinely co-grazed cattle and sheep in the same paddocks were recruited through purposive sampling. The recruiting veterinarians identified nine farms with cattle herds that were known or highly suspected to be positive for BVD and nine farms that were considered to be free of BVD. Blood samples were taken from 15 ewes aged 1 year on each farm and samples were submitted to a commercial diagnostic laboratory to test for antibodies against pestiviruses using an ELISA. All samples that were positive were then tested using a virus neutralisation test (VNT)for antibodies against BVD virus.

Results: Of the 270 blood samples, 17 were positive for pestivirus antibodies by ELISA and these originated from two farms that were known or suspected to have BVD virus-positive cattle. None of the samples from the nine flocks co-grazed with cattle herds that were known or suspected to be BVD virus-negative were positive for pestivirus antibodies. Within the two positive farms, 2/15 samples from the first farm and 15/15 samples from the second farm were antibody-positive. When the 17 positive blood samples were submitted for VNT, all 15 samples from the second farm tested positive for BVD virus antibodies with the highest titre being 1:512.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: In this small sample of New Zealand sheep and beef farms with suspected BVD infection in cattle, there was evidence of pestivirus exposure in co-grazed sheep. Although we were unable to confirm the origin of the exposure in these sheep, these findings highlight that farmers who are trying to eradicate BVD from their cattle should be mindful that the infection may also be circulating in sheep, and both populations should be considered a possible risk to each other for generating transient and persistent infections. Further work is needed to estimate the true prevalence of New Zealand sheep flocks that are affected by BVD and the associated economic impacts.

Keywords: Bovine viral diarrhoea virus, ELISA, New Zealand, pestivirus, sheep, virus neutralisation test


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