The aims of this investigation were to determine the prevalence of ovine herpesvirus type 2 (ovhv-2) (the causative agent of malignant catarrhal fever) infection in cattle, the carrier status of sheep and goats, and to define the pattern of acquisition of ovhv-2 in lambs under natural flock conditions in Kashmir, India. None of the buffy coat samples from 21 lambs contained ovhv-2 dna sequences up to 28 days after birth, only one lamb had sequences of ovhv-2 dna as early as 29 days after birth, and they were detected in the other 20 lambs when they were between 43 and 94 days of age. Sequences of ovhv-2 dna were detected in buffy coat samples from 28 (85 per cent) of 33 adult sheep and in 16 (61 per cent) of 26 samples from adult goats by hemi-nested pcr. Seventeen (31 per cent) of 55 cattle with malignant catarrhal fever-like clinical signs had sequences of ovhv-2 dna in their blood, and nine of the 17 died, all of them during the months of April to November, between November 2002 and March 2004. No clinical cases of sheep-associated malignant catarrhal fever was recorded during the months of December to March. The overall prevalence of ovhv-2 infection in the cattle in the region was estimated to be less than 1 per cent.