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Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) is caused by Bovine Herpes Virus 1 (BHV-1) and UK cattle of all ages are at risk. In fact, screening tests have shown that 69% of UK dairy herds show signs of infection. IBR is highly infectious and is spread either directly by nose to nose contact or through the air over short distances, or indirectly by contact with contaminated clothing or equipment. It can also be spread by directly by infected semen.

Clinical signs of classical (acute) IBR infection result from the infection of a completely naive animals and include fever, eye and nasal discharges, milk drop and even death.

Increasing numbers of UK herds have carrier animals in which the virus lies dormant (called latent infection) until times of stress, such as calving, concurrent BVD infection or dietary change, when the infection relapses and they start to shed the virus. The virus can then infect other young or naive animals as well as causing illness in the carrier animal. IBR infection is also an important cause of abortion.

There are therefore two IBR syndromes:

  • Chronically infected animals, where the infection has been dormant, develop mild symptoms due to a relapse of their infection.
  • Naive animals, which have never met the virus before, develop severe symptoms after recently becoming infected.


The cost of an IBR outbreak in a 100-cow dairy herd was calculated to be £3,200 by workers at the University of Reading. This excluded treatment costs and abortions.

It was assumed half the herd would give 14 litres less for 5 days and that two cows would die or be culled.

(There are farmers in the author’s practice who would consider this estimate to be a bit on the low side.)

Control Measures

Make time to discuss the management of IBR on your farm with your vet.

There are two Rispoval IBR® vaccines available to control IBR infection:

  • The live vaccine is most suitable for preventing clinical disease in naive animals
  • The inactivated vaccine is most suitable for preventing the shedding of virus in latently infected cattle

Testing a bulk milk sample for IBR antibodies will indicate your herd’s IBR status and whether your cattle are most at risk from acute or chronic IBR infection and hence which vaccine to use. Low antibody levels indicate a high proportion of naive animals and that the live vaccine will be most suitable; high antibody levels indicate recent vaccination or chronic infection and that the inactivated vaccine will be most suitable.

The inactivated Rispoval IBR® vaccine is licensed to give 12 months’ protection if it is given one month after the live vaccine. On many farms the most sensible protocol is to give a live vaccine first and follow this with the inactivated vaccine one month later. If you start vaccinating in late summer your cattle are then protected until they are due their booster one year later. If you are start vaccinating at any other time of year, given a booster at the end of summer to bring you cattle in line with the rest.

Vaccinating at the end of summer gives your cattle their highest immunity in winter which is the high risk period for this disease.

The inactivated vaccine can be given from 3 months of age and is given under the skin.

The live vaccine can be given from two weeks of age and is either given up the nose or into the muscle.

Some farmers and vets like to stick to the tried and trusted Tracherine® which is also an IBR vaccine.


  • Give Rispoval IBR Live® to all at risk stock
  • Give Rispoval IBR® inactivated a month later
  • Give a booster within 12 months at the end of the summer