A new diagnostic approach testing tissue samples derived from cattle ear tagging for bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) antigen in a commercially available antigen capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ACE) was developed. To validate this method, 99 positive and 469 negative samples were tested. With those samples the assay yielded a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of >or=99.6%. Serum and ear tissue samples from 11 persistently infected (PI) BVDV calves were tested. While serum samples were negative after intake of colostrum, the ear tissue samples could be detected positive for BVDV all the time. Testing multiple samples derived from the same ear from PI cattle yielded positive results and low variation. Using cattle ear tags combining the ear tag application with sampling of a small ear tissue plug and testing those tissue samples with an ACE could be a reliable and economic way of BVDV testing.