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Are You Testing Bulls for Trichomoniasis?

05 June 2017

ANALYSIS - Trichomoniasis, also known as Trich, can be devastating to a beef operation. Diagnostic testing can help monitor bulls and significantly reduce the spread of the disease.

Trichomoniasis, also known as Trich, is an economically important disease caused by a protozoal parasite that lives in the reproductive tract of cattle and is spread through breeding.

"An infected bull that goes undetected passes that parasite on to the cows that he breeds. The cows typically will become bred and then after a time an inflammation sets up in the reproductive tract," said Dustin Oedekoven, South Dakota state veterinarian.

The cow then aborts the embryo resulting in an economic loss to the producer. When identifying Trich, a producer might notice more open (non-pregnant) cows in their herd than normal when pregnancy checking the herd. Or another sign is cows coming back into heat again during the reproductive season due to an aborted fetus. Sometimes the problem can exist for a couple of seasons before it is identified as an issue. 

"In [South Dakota], we ended up with a large number of herds that were affected with Trich in 2005. Overwhelming, the cattle industry came to the Animal Industry Board, our state animal health agency, and asked for rules to be put in place that would help to control the spread of Trich," he said. "Our rule is fairly simple - it requires that non-virgin bulls be tested prior to import into the state or prior to sale within the state. Non-virgin bull have to be tested negative prior to one of those two events happening - import or sale. We also restrict the sale of open cows for breeding purposes, either importing into the state or selling those cows within the state."

Diagnostic testing is only available for bulls. It's possible to "pool" tests, meaning test a group of non-virgin bulls using one diagnostic reaction to meet the state's requirement. In herds where Trich has been identified, individual tests are required.

"A long as it's done by an approved laboratory, the results are acceptable for us. It used to be you'd have to do cultures, and of course, that has its problems, but now most tests that are done using PCR," he said.

Diagnostics using PCR provide not only faster results, but a higher level of confidence in the results. 

Oedekoven said their regulatory testing program worked quickly to bring Trich under control in South Dakota.

"We saw a dramatic drop. Following the implementation of our rule, we went from 45 Trich-affected herds to somewhere in the teens the next year," he explained. "It went down to no affected herds a couple years ago. When compliance is good, we see a reduction in the number of herds that are affected. It's good to have these diagnostic tests available to help the industry reduce the impact of Trich."

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor



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