In the Know About BVD-PI

Published on Mon, 04/03/2023 - 3:07pm

In the Know About BVD-PI.

 Article by Maura Keller.

 Within the cattle and dairy industries, testing for bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) is imperative. Just ask Dr. Bill Hessman, who, along with his son Dustin Hessman and the team at Central States Testing, are significantly impacting the way cattle producers, veterinarians and researchers are keeping cattle healthy, while increasing the profitability of producers.

Founded in 2011 by Bill Hessman, renowned BVD expert and veterinarian, Central States Testing (CST) provides BVD individual sample tests, and just recently became licensed to provide a new quick test for BVD-PI (persistently infected). Headquartered in Kansas, today Central States Testing is one of the largest providers of BVD-PI testing laboratories in the country with  affiliate labs in Kentucky, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri and Oklahoma.

According to Dustin Hessman, president of CST, since the company’s inception the CST team has remained focused on helping producers identify and control BVD exposure in cattle, effectively and efficiently.

“CST began in response to research that my father did beginning in 2008. He has become one of the leading experts in the world on this virus,” Hessman says. “Using his knowledge of the virus, CST developed our own diagnostic test for BVD and we were the first commercial laboratory to run samples at an extremely high volume.”

The Benefits of Testing
The initial research that Dr. Hessman conducted in 2009 indicated that calves that are exposed to BVD will show a $67 loss and that loss is through performance, mortality and morbidity.

“The research showed that even at the low prevalence, having four PIs per 1,000 head of cattle, it was enough to expose 60% of a feed yard to BVD,” Hessman says. “When you multiply $67 per head by that amount…that’s a significant number and a significant loss to a producer.”

Historically, CST has used an Antigen Capture Elisa (ACE) testing technology to identify BVD-PI in calves. The QuickTest is specifically designed for identifying BVD-PI in calves, who are born with the virus and are extremely infectious – shedding billions of virus particles each day. Without proper diagnosis, these calves can infect healthy calves, who will suffer for about two weeks before passing.

So why did CST introduce its new BVD-PI QuickTest? Quite simply, to provide producers with one of the most efficient, reliable and cost-effective testing options on the market. A simple ear notch is all that’s required to indicate if a calf is positive with BVD.

As Hessman explains, one of the inherent mistakes that producers often make as it relates to BVD-PI testing is “pooling” samples taken from calves in order to reduce testing costs. The problem with this technique is that industry research indicates that accuracy of “pooled” samples is significantly decreased, often misidentifying BVD-PI calves as negative. As previously explained, it only takes a small number of PI-infected animals to expose a large majority of a herd in a feed yard, decimating a producer’s bottom line. Because of the cost effectiveness of the QuickTest, the tendency to “pool” samples is eliminated and producers are left knowing the results are truly accurate for their herd.

To address the testing accuracy, reliability, and cost concerns on the part of producers, CST worked diligently to develop, refine and introduce the new CST QuickTest. The company received its licensure for the QuickTest in November 2022. The easy-to-run diagnostic test is not only extremely accurate and cost effectively, but producers and/or veterinarians can receive results in 30 minutes. Each test kit includes 576 tests.

“We are excited about this new test because it is more affordable, and out of the gate, our test is more accurate because of the platform used. Specifically, the team utilizes microwell antigen ELISA technology, while our competitor uses lateral-flow ELISA technology. Since lateral-flow uses a wick system, some antigen can be filtered out, therefore leading to a decrease in sensitivity.

And it’s more affordable with CST’s starting price being about half the cost of its competitors.

“Our tests are designed for producers that run more than 1,000 head a year and those clients that we have engaged with are happier with our tests for their reliability, ease of use, speed of testing and cost effectiveness.” While CST’s competitor’s test can be completed in 20 minutes versus CST’s test being completed in 30 minutes, when it comes to high-volume testing (30+ samples at a time), CST’s test is much faster due to the tools involved.

Effectively identifying and eliminating PI animals is a vital component of the cattle industry, especially in light of the increasing costs of feeding animals.

“The good thing about removing the PIs is that it helps decrease your cost of gain and increase your average daily gain,” Hessman says. Indeed, numbers don’t lie. CST research indicates that when cattle are exposed to PIs the feed to gain is 35% higher. Likewise, the cost of gain is 40% higher and the average daily gain is 20% lower. What’s more, mortality is twice as high, while there is a 15% reduction in vaccine efficacy.

“Testing for and removing BVD-PI calves from your operation will help calves convert feed better, reduce mortality and help your vaccines perform better,” Hessman says. “With the cost of feeding cattle today, this $3.00 test will help you save money.”

To learn more about CST, as well as its research, articles, testing protocols and information about BVD and BVD-PI testing options, visit