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Bulls positive for trichomoniasis found in 40 Missouri counties

By Doug Rich

POSITIVE TESTS—This map shows the counties in Missouri were bulls have tested postive for trichomoniasis. To date bulls tesing positive for the disease have been found in 40 counties. (Journal photo by Doug Rich)

On Sept. 1, Missouri began enforcing new intrastate trichomoniasis regulations for bulls that are sold, leased, bartered or traded within the state. Dr. Linda Hickam, Missouri state veterinarian, updated beef producers on this new rule at the Missouri Cattlemen's Association convention on Dec. 16 in Columbia, Mo.

"We try to implement our regulations based on research and assessing the risk," Hickam said. "We try to educate producers about what is a high risk animal and how to handle that high risk animal accordingly."

New regulations

The regulations require all non-virgin bulls and all bulls over the age of 30 months (24 months if entering a livestock market) to be tested for trichomoniasis. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, the age requirement for bulls will change to 24 months for all bulls sold, leased, bartered, or traded within the state of Missouri.

Bulls exempt from testing include those going directly to slaughter, bulls sold through a livestock market and going directly to slaughter, buffalo, exotic bovids, virgin bulls under 30 months of age sold private treaty, and virgin bulls under 24 months of age marketed through a livestock market. Animals that come into the state for exhibition do not have to be tested unless they are going to be used for breeding while they are in the state. Bulls that test positive for trichomoniasis will be sent to slaughter, either directly or sold for slaughter through a livestock market.

The regulation states that herds of origin for a bull that tests positive for trichomoniasis will be quarantined or sent to slaughter. Females in the herd that are open or 120 days or less pregnant will be quarantined until isolated from any bulls for a period of 120 days. Females that are confirmed at least 120 days pregnant or have a calf at side with no known exposure to a positive bull will not be quarantined. Virgin heifers will not be quarantined.

Trichomoniasis was thought to be a disease present primarily in herds in the western U.S. but it has moved east in recent years. Hickam said the first year Missouri started testing for trichomoniasis they had 50 positive bulls out of 2,000 samples. These bulls were spread out over 20 counties. To date the state has tested over 6,500 bulls. Bulls that are positive for trichomoniasis have been found 40 counties in Missouri.


"I think we brought it to Missouri when states in the western region had drought," Hickam said. "Missouri had grass so a lot of those animals were transported into our state to supplement them and graze for a period of time."

Extreme drought in the southwestern U.S. this past summer resulted in the movement of beef cows and bulls to eastern pastures but Hickam said it is probably too early to tell if this will cause an increase in trichomoniasis in Missouri this year. Hickman thinks they have turned the corner in the southwest region of the state because the number of positive tests for trichomoniasis is declining.

Bulls show no clinical signs of the disease and carry the disease for a lifetime once they are infected. Hickam said there are a small percentage of young bulls that can clear the organism but that is a very small percentage.

Most cows clear the disease after the third heat cycle. A small percentage of cows, less than one percent, will retain the organism after carrying a calf to full term. After they calve these cows will be able to infect a bull. Typically infected cows will abort anywhere from 14 days to 21 days pregnant.


A higher than normal number of open cows or a calving season that is strung out over several months are signs that your herd may be infected. If producers think their herd might have trichomoniasis Hickam said they should consult their veterinarian, develop a management plan, test all bulls, cull all positive bulls, cull all open cows, and cull cows less than 120 to 190 days pregnant.

There are steps that producers can take to prevent the spread of the disease in their herd. Hickam said producers should buy virgin bulls, should not lease bulls, should not purchase open cows, should test all non-virgin bulls prior to turning them out in the herd, and should keep their fences repaired. Hickam stressed that trichomoniasis is not an airborne disease, it is not in the water supply, and it is not carried by wildlife. The only way it gets onto your farm or ranch is if you bring in with an infected animal.

"Be aware of what you are bringing on to your place," Hickam said.

Hickam said trichomoniasis is probably the most devastating disease financially to the beef industry compared to any other disease she has worked with during her career. It has had a tremendous impact on individual producers whose herds have been hit with this disease. For example Hickam said if a producer had 35 cows, a death loss of 50 percent and he were able to sell 500 pounds calves for $1.50 per hundredweight, he would lose $12,750. In addition there is the cost of replacing all of the bulls that test positive for the disease.

"I think we have a problem with trichomoniasis but I think we can address the problem and I think it is not too late to educate people so they can prevent it from coming into their herds," Hickam said.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by e-mail at richhpj@aol.com.

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