It’s silent, it’s stealthy and it’s impossible to detect until after the damage is done. But trichomoniasis, which has become more of a concern over the last decade, can be prevented and controlled with a systems approach – a program that includes several defense strategies.
“By far and away, do the best you can to prevent it from getting on the farm, but have a second line of defense in case it does,” says Soren Rodning, Auburn University Extension veterinarian. “Because if there is no second line of defense; the consequences will be absolutely devastating.”
Trich is a reproductive disease most often manifesting itself in open cows. The organism is spread by infected bulls that picked up the organism after breeding infected cows. An infected bull is incurable; the only way to prevent further spread in your herd is to send the bull to town.
Another Look: Trichomoniasis Is Controllable
Cows, however, can clear the infection in 2-6 months. But by then, the organism has done its dirty work by causing the cow to lose the embryo if it’s early in the pregnancy or abort the fetus later on. So, even though the cow will eventually clear the infection and come back in heat, your tightly controlled 90-day calving season has been shot to pieces.
“All else being equal, cows that calve early in the calving season will produce calves that are heavier at weaning simply because of more growth time,” Rodning says. “And the bottom line is that more pounds of calves at weaning mean more money on sale day.”
Unfortunately, there is no FDA-approved treatment once trich makes its way into your herd. “Obviously, the best thing we can do is to prevent trich from ever getting onto the farm,” Rodning says.
But that’s not always possible, especially in high-risk operations that move cows in and out frequently. As cows change hands, diseases move. Even a fence-jumping bull can quickly spread the disease to your herd.
Are You At Risk For Trich? | A Trichomoniasis Self-Assessment
So the first line of defense is to work with your local veterinarian to have a biosecurity plan in place. Because trich most often affects cows 70-90 days after infection, buying cows and heifers that are pregnant 120 days or more is a safer bet, Rodning says.
“And having an appropriate quarantine time is very important.” That could be as extensive as keeping those animals separate, calving in a separate area, and maintaining the integrity of those replacement females, even through the subsequent breeding or calving season, he says.
The secondary line of protection is a vaccination program for both cows and bulls. “In my opinion, vaccination is a critical management tool in a herd,” he says.
“If the disease does enter the farm, the next best thing we can do is have a line of defense, and that line of defense is appropriate herd immunity through vaccination. Failure to vaccinate high-risk herds, without a doubt, increases the likelihood and severity of serious negative consequences following infection of naive cows,” Rodning says. “Vaccination would also be recommended even for herds at moderate risk for exposure to trich.”