Evidence of a high incidence of subclinically affected calves in a herd of cattle with fatal cases of Bovine Neonatal Pancytopenia (BNP)

CR Bell*, MG Kerr, PR Scott, WI Morrison, H Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background Bovine Neonatal Pancytopenia (BNP) is a disease of calves characterised by bone marrow trilineage hypoplasia, mediated by ingestion of alloantibodies in colostrum. Suspected subclinical forms of BNP have been reported, suggesting that observed clinical cases may not represent the full extent of the disease. However to date there are no objective data available on the incidence of subclinical disease or its temporal distribution. This study aimed to 1) ascertain whether subclinical BNP occurs and, if so, to determine the incidence on an affected farm and 2) determine whether there is evidence of temporal clustering of BNP cases on this farm. To achieve these aims, haematological screening of calves born on the farm during one calving season was carried out, utilising blood samples collected at defined ages. These data were then analysed in comparison to data from both known BNP-free control animals and histopathologically confirmed BNP cases. An ordinal logistic regression model was used to create a composite haematology score to predict the probabilities of calves being normal, based on their haematology measurements at 10-14 days old. Results This study revealed that 15% (21 of 139) of the clinically normal calves on this farm had profoundly abnormal haematology (<5% chance of being normal) and could be defined as affected by subclinical BNP. Together with clinical BNP cases, this gave the study farm a BNP incidence of 18%. Calves with BNP were found to be distributed throughout the calving period, with no clustering, and no significant differences in the date of birth of cases or subclinical cases were found compared to the rest of the calves. This study did not find any evidence of increased mortality or increased time from birth to sale in subclinical BNP calves but, as the study only involved a single farm and adverse effects may be determined by other inter-current diseases it remains possible that subclinical BNP has a detrimental impact on the health and productivity of calves under certain circumstances. Conclusions Subclinical BNP was found to occur at a high incidence in a herd of cattle with fatal cases of BNP.
Original languageEnglish
Article number245
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Publication statusFirst published - 8 Oct 2014


  • Alloantibody
  • Bovine Neonatal Pancytopenia (BNP)
  • Haematology
  • Subclinical


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