Open cows and transmittable diseases are two phrases no cattleman wants to hear. But unfortunately, the spread of a lingering disease known as trichomoniasis is bringing them back to mind. Your herd could be the next target for trichomoniasis if prevention isn’t part of your herd health protocol.
What is trich?
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted, venereal disease that poses a real threat to bulls and breeding-age females. The disease is trademarked by reduced calf crops from open, infected cows in addition to lighter weaning weights from a longer calving season. Dr. Travis Van Anne, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., professional services veterinarian says, “Thirty to 50 percent open rates aren’t out of the question for infected herds.”
While clinical signs will not be present, bulls are the carrier of trichomoniasis and spread it to cows at breeding. “Infected cows won’t appear any different, but a uterine inflammatory response could happen followed by an abortion, or she simply won’t conceive at all,” says Dr. Van Anne. And while cows may be able to clear themselves of the disease in two to four months, bulls will continue to carry and spread it each time they breed a cow.
Purchased bulls should be tested and confirmed free of trichomoniasis before entering your herd. Many states have trichomoniasis-specific regulations on importing breeding bulls into the state. To learn more about these regulations, consult with your veterinarian or contact your state’s board of animal health. In addition to knowing the rules, producers should be wary of bull breeders who aren’t compliant with these regulations in an effort to expedite bull sales. Make sure you are purchasing bulls that come from reputable sources, and have tested negative for trich.
The economics behind trich losses
Fewer calves, less uniform calf crops, additional costs of culling and replacements, as well as veterinary expenses will take away from a producer’s bottom line when trichomoniasis is present. Some estimates put losses at more than $143 per cow. 1 For a 100-head herd, that’s $14,300 each year that isn’t part of a producer’s income.
“Your first step should really be to ask your veterinarian about testing for trichomoniasis and if it has been identified in the area,” Dr. Van Anne says. He also suggests using young, virgin bulls. Unfortunately, if open-range grazing is part of your operation, you could be subject to infection from a neighbor’s bull. The same risk applies if fences aren’t cattle-proof. That’s why Dr. Van Anne also suggests vaccinating cows with TrichGuard®. He concludes, “The combination of testing, culling and vaccination will give you a great start in stopping this expensive problem.”