Skip to main content

Natural in utero infection of neonatal calves with BVDV on a large dairy farm in Saudi Arabia

Abuelzein EM1, Al-Khaliyfa MA, Gameel AA.

  • 1 King Fahad Medical Research Centre, King Abdulaziz University


The dairy industry is a large and important business in Saudi Arabia. Although farms are administered to high international standards, some reproduction problems, of uncertain aetiology, are encountered. The most frequently seen are conception failures, abortions, stillbirths and the birth of weak or malformed calves. These conditions are suggestive of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) infection. Unfortunately, very little published information is available regarding the impact of this disease on cattle populations in Saudi Arabia. As a consequence, the present study was carried out and is the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region. The aim of the study was to elucidate the role of in utero BVDV infection leading to the birth of weak or malformed calves on a large dairy farm in Saudi Arabia. The study was divided into two parts. Firstly, apparently healthy neonatal calves were sampled for the detection of pre-colostral serum antibodies to BVDV. The presence of these antibodies indicates exposure of the foetus to BVDV during the last two trimesters of gestation. Secondly, tissue samples from malformed neonatal calves were examined for the presence of BVDV antigens. Detection of such antigens confirms exposure of the foetus to the virus during the first trimester of gestation. The results of the investigation indicated that 36.1% of the neonatal calves were exposed to BVDV infection in utero. This is higher than what has been reported in the literature and suggests that dairy farmers in the Arabian Peninsula need to be made aware of the dangers of BVDV infections in their herds. The epidemiological significance of the results is discussed.