Management and vaccination keep trichomoniasis at bay

Sep 3, 2010
by WLJ

Trichomoniasis, commonly referred to as “Trich,” is a growing problem among cowherds. Predominantly found in southern and western states, this disease is caused by the protozoa Tritrichomonas foetus. Trichomoniasis is a venereal disease transmitted at breeding and results in early embryonic death and abortion of the fetus. This can cause devastating economic setbacks for cattle producers.

“Often, the first sign of Trich is open cows or cows calving significantly late,” says Dr. Joe Campbell, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.

An infected bull transmits the disease to the cow at breeding; she then aborts the fetus early in pregnancy and ultimately comes into heat later in the breeding season. If she becomes pregnant late in the season, her resulting calf will be smaller than its peers. In some cases, the cow may not conceive again and she will not deliver a calf that year. While cows can clear the disease on their own, infected bulls are considered carriers for the remainder of their life.

Proper herd management is fundamental to preventing Trich from infecting the cowherd. Maintaining fences is an important step in herd management. Although no fence is cattleproof, they serve the purpose of keeping potentially infected animals away from a clean herd. Reducing exposure to outside animals is another essential step in reducing the probability of Trich being introduced to a herd. Introduction can come in the form of stray animals or by purchasing outside cattle. When buying bulls, make sure the bull is a virgin bull or test non-virgin bulls for Trich prior to introducing them into the cowherd.

Trich is a disease with devastating economic effects on cattle producers. Fewer calves and late calves equate to less pounds of beef to sell. The culling of infected bulls and cows creates a gap in a producer’s herd, and replacing those animals is expensive.

TrichGuard, a Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. product, is the first vaccine on the market to help reduce losses due to trichomoniasis.

Prevention of this disease is crucial because once established in a herd, eradicating Trich can take a long time. TrichGuard can help reduce the risk of cattle becoming infected with Trich.

“The vaccine is easy to administer and can be an asset to your herd management program,” says Campbell. Cows and heifers receive two doses before breeding the first year of use. They are to be given two to four weeks apart, with the second vaccination given four weeks prior to breeding. In following years, cows need only one vaccination four weeks prior to breeding. By decreasing the impact of Trich and increasing the percentage of cows bringing calves to term, TrichGuard can be a valuable addition to the cattle producer’s management toolbox.

Campbell recommends that producers work with their local veterinarian to develop a plan to prevent trichomoniasis in the cowherd. Proper herd management practices and vaccination give producers the tools to help prevent and reduce losses due to trichomoniasis. — WLJ