In short Pesti Virus in cattle is a little like the common cold in humans. Easily passed around, easily recovered from, but disastrous in some cases.
Two breeders have had Pesti Virus in their herds over the last few years but for most it has never been an issue. Pesti is passed between animals by touch or liquids/solids in yards, transport trucks etc. In both of these cases neighbouring cattle sharing a boundary fence were the source of the infection.
An adult cow who contracts Pesti Virus will often not show any symptoms and will recover quickly on their own and most will build a natural immunity to the virus.
Problems occur if the cow is infected while pregnant; the virus can cause cows to abort and in worst case scenario you could lose all your calves in a year.
Lifelong carriers of the virus, including cases of mucosal disease, are a consequence of infection in early foetal life (usually before 100 days gestation). These lifelong carriers are termed PI (persistently infected). An animal can only become persistently infected if they are born with the disease.
Any calves born in the year after a herd has been affected by Pesti Virus should be tested to see if they are persistently infected and any PI animals should be kept away from breeding cattle and culled. Animals who are PI do not thrive and will generally not live passed two years of age.
It is advised to test any new animals coming into a closed herd if they are less than 2 years of age to see if they are persistently infected. Your local vet can advise about testing, it can be done with a small ear notch or a tail hair sample.
It is possible to vaccinate against the virus with two doses in the first year to build immunity and an annual booster 4 – 6 weeks prior to joining thereafter.
The smallest dose packet of the Vaccine is 50 doses so members living close to each other with smaller herds could consider sharing a pack. At a current cost of $260 a year it is much cheaper than losing a calf.
The following links contain more information on the Virus and the Vaccine.
DPI Fact Sheet Pesti Virus access here
Pestiguard Vacinne Fact Sheet access here