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Trichomoniasis and its Devastating Effect

trichomoniasis in cattle  

Trichomoniasis, or “Trich.” is a disease that can be economically and emotionally devastating when it infects a cattle herd. It can cause infertility, open cows, and abortion, a cycle that may persist for years. Trich is caused by a microscopic parasite that lives in the reproductive tract of an infected animal. It is most commonly transmitted from an infected bull to heifers and cows during breeding.

If your herd becomes infected for the first time, you can expect around a 90% infection rate and a long, drawn-out calving season resulting in a 50-70% calf crop. Infertility and repeat breeding of individual cows can span several months, because the embryo usually dies within 2 weeks of conception and the cow is bred again. Eventually cows begin to cycle regularly and may carry a fetus to term. Once the herd has been infected for a long period, more cows will get pregnant, but never as many as if there were no Trich present.

Bulls are the main carriers of Trich, but they don’t exhibit any signs of the disease. Once a bull becomes infected, it remains infected for life. In cows and heifers, the immune system destroys it within 3-20 weeks. The immunity is short-lived though, so she can become re-infected. An infected cow is capable of passing Trich to an uninfected bull, perpetuating the cycle.

It is important to test incoming, borrowed, or rented bulls to keep this disease away from your herd. Using bulls that have serviced other herds greatly increases the risk of passing Trich. Artificial Insemination or virgin bulls are generally considered safe breeding options. It’s also important that you maintain secure fences to prevent neighboring bulls and cows from commingling with your herd.

TrichGuard is a vaccine to aid in the prevention of Trichomoniasis. A series of 3 injected doses is required, with the last dose given 4 weeks prior to breeding.

Trich is a disease that you should be aware of and take precautions to prevent. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in this case the only path to a “cure” is long and devastating. Lori H

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