Article Text

Farm Animal Practice
Milk antibody testing in cattle
  1. Geoff Pritchard

    Geoff Pritchard qualified from Edinburgh in 1973, having previously graduated in agricultural science from Wye College, London. He is a veterinary investigation officer at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and has worked in the Veterinary Investigation Service (now VLA) since 1980. He holds an FRCVS for a thesis on transmissible gastroenteritis in pigs, and a DVM&S for work on the epidemiology of infectious bovine rhinotracheitis. His interests include the diagnosis, control and prevention of endemic infectious diseases of ruminants.


MILK antibody testing has played a significant role in cattle disease control and eradication programmes in many countries, particularly in mainland Europe and Scandinavia, since the mid-1980s. In Britain, bulk milk antibody testing is an integral part of the statutory control programmes for brucellosis and enzootic bovine leukosis. It is also used by veterinary diagnostic laboratories, and within formal cattle health schemes, for measuring bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus (IBRV)/bovine herpesvirus 1 and Leptospira hardjo infections. A bulk tank antibody test for Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Johne's disease) was used for a recent prevalence study in Denmark, but proved unreliable. Milk antibody testing has, however, been successfully developed for several other important cattle infections including salmonella, respiratory syncytial virus and coronavirus. In 1997, the VLA introduced bulk milk antibody testing for BVDV, IBRV and L hardjo in its Regional Laboratories. This article discusses the use of these tests, with particular emphasis on practical and cost-effective approaches.

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.