The prevalence of bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) was determined in 113 Michigan dairy herds by ELISA testing for anti-BLV antibodies in milk. Additionally, an interview regarding management practices with cooperating herd managers identified farm-level variables thought to be associated with prevalence of BLV. Twenty-three risk factors (P ⩽ 0·1) were identified on one-way ANOVA or simple linear regression. Multivariate analysis identified several management practices whose predictive value for increased prevalence of BLV may relate to transmission among herd mates, e.g. reuse of hypodermic needles, lack of fly control, gouge dehorning and increased use of injections in dry cows. Additionally, exclusive breeding of heifers with artificial insemination was associated with decreased BLV prevalence, as compared with at least some use of natural service by a bull. Although intervention studies are needed before causal relationships can be concluded, and unaccounted variables related to transmission exist among dairy herds, these findings suggest management practices that may help dairy producers reduce the transmission of BLV within their herds.