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J Dairy Sci. 2012 Feb;95(2):727-34. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4760.

Association between bovine leukemia virus, production, and population age in Michigan dairy herds.

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Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


The objective of this study was to determine the herd-level effect of bovine leukemia virus (BLV) infection on dairy production, culling, and cow longevity. During routine herd testing, Dairy Herd Improvement Association technicians collected milk samples from about 40 cows from each of 104 randomly selected Michigan dairy herds averaging ≥120 milking cows and 11,686 kg of milk/yr. Milk samples were analyzed for the presence of anti-BLV antibodies by ELISA, and herd- and lactation-specific estimates of BLV prevalence were computed to determine which were the most predictive of herd milk production, culling rate, and cow longevity (proportion of cows in their third or greater lactation). On this basis, the herd BLV index (an unweighted mean BLV prevalence rate for lactation number 1, 2, 3, and ≥4) was selected as the measure of BLV prevalence that was the most highly associated with BLV economic impact. Step-down multivariate analysis was used to determine the extent to which any of 19 herd-level management variables may have confounded the association of BLV index and measures of herd economic impact (milk production and cow longevity). The BLV index was not associated with the 12-mo culling rate, but was negatively associated in the final multivariable model with the proportion of cows that were ≥third lactation, and was negatively associated with herd milk production. In summary, increased prevalence of BLV within Michigan dairy herds was found to be associated with decreased herd milk production and decreased cow longevity. Our results provide evidence that BLV infection is associated with herd-level economic impacts in high-performing dairy herds.

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