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Controlling trichomoniasis

By Doug Rich

CATTLE MOVEMENT—A lot of breeding-age cattle moved north and east to greener pastures in the last three years to due to severe drought in the southern High Plains region. This spread trichomoniasis to states that had not experienced the disease before and resulted in new regulations to control the venereal disease. (Journal photo by Doug Rich.)

Even as states refine their trichomoniasis rules, the programs in place are doing a good job of controlling the disease.

Dr. Rod Hall, state veterinarian in Oklahoma, said 2.1 percent of the bulls tested in 2011 were positive for trichomoniasis. In 2012 only 1.4 percent of the bulls tested in Oklahoma were positive for the disease.

"It looks like we made a little bit of progress on educating producers and they are doing a better job of managing their herds," Hall said.

Similar results have been achieved in Texas, which started a mandatory trichomoniasis program in 2009 at the request of their livestock industry.

"Although we don't have a statistically valid sample of the population from before and now, all we can gauge it on are the bulls that being are tested and how many are positive," Dr. Andy Schwartz, executive assistant director of the Animal Health Commission in Texas, said. In the last 12 months they have tested nearly 25,000 bulls and only 433 were positive for the disease. That is about 1.7 percent of the tested bulls. Schwartz said the first year of the program nearly 3.5 percent of the bulls tested came back positive for trich.


"Our program is not designed to be an eradication program; it is designed to control trich and protect the livestock in the state," Schwartz said. "An eradication program is one where you likely have to go through and test all of the bulls in the state like we did with brucellosis. This is more of a passive surveillance program."

Nebraska established their trich program in 2008 and they have gone from 40 to 50 herds with infected bulls down to a half dozen.

"We were a dumping ground for many years for trich-infected cattle that were coming into our state," Dr. Dennis Hughes, Nebraska state veterinarian, said. "The import order curtailed that activity."

"The bad year for cattle moving north from drought-stricken areas was 2011," Hughes said. "That was the year a lot of cattle were brought up illegally from Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma that did not meet our import requirements. They came without individual identification, which is required to meet our import trichomoniasis requirements, and they did not have health certificates."

Dr. George Pat Badley, Arkansas state veterinarian, said their regulations and education program have slowed the movement of the disease across the state. The number of positive test results has gone down.

Since Missouri instituted trich regulations last fall, they have seen the prevalence of positive tests has been reduced, according to Dr. Linda Hickam, Missouri state veterinarian. Movement of the state from west to east has slowed down.

"We really have worked hard to educate producers and veterinarians about the disease," Hickam said. "We have tried to educate producers about the risk of buying certain classes of livestock. So even though it is still moving across the state, it is moving at a much slower pace. Incidences of the disease on the southwest part of the state have been greatly reduced."


States continue to tweak their trichomoniasis rules to make their programs more effective and to meet the demands of livestock producers. Most began with import programs only and then expanded their programs to include in-state programs.

Hughes said he is anticipating an in-state program for Nebraska that would include notification of neighboring herds when bulls test positive for trich. Nebraska has had an import program in place since 2008 but never an in-state program.

"Nebraska cattlemen want a notification program so if a neighbor has trich they could be notified in some way and take protective measures to protect their own herds," Hughes said. "We need a law in place to allow us to do that type of notification. We are hearing rumors that this might be the case but nothing official has come out yet."

Producers in Arkansas want to lower the age of virgin bulls that need to be tested to 18 or even 12 months of age. Badley said that is the only change to their trich regulations that he would anticipate in the near future.

At the next meeting of the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture, Hall said they will propose extending the time period that a test is valid from 30 days to 60 days. If the Board of Agriculture approves this it will go to the Oklahoma legislature. Hall said this would give their seedstock producers a little more time to get their bulls sold without having to retest.

"The complaint I have heard most often in regard to our trich regulations is that we don't have regulations that require producers that have a bull test positive to refrain from selling cows that could be exposed to that bull," Hall said. "When we visit with producers after they have had a bull diagnosed with the disease, most producers have been very good about wanting to get rid of the disease in their herd and preventing neighboring herds from getting the disease, but we have also been alerted to instances when a producer sold cows that had been exposed to an infected bull."

Brown said they are making progress even though there are loopholes in the regulations. He feels they can make drastic reductions in the disease without more stringent regulations.

Texas has a working group that includes representatives from industry, university, government, and diagnostic labs that review their trich regulations on a yearly basis. Last year this group recommended the use of pooled samples at the labs as a cost saving measure for bull owners.

"Individual samples are still collected but samples from up to five bulls can be pooled at the lab for testing," Schwartz said. "If a positive test comes up they can still go back and test individuals from that pool."

This working group also recommended some type of notification for neighboring herds and that has been instituted. Schwartz said neighbors are not required to test their bulls, but they do send them a letter of notification and offer to talk with the producers about the disease and herd management.

Two new trichomoniasis regulations have been proposed in Kansas. The first would require non-virgin bulls, 19 months of age or older or of unknown virginity status, that change ownership in Kansas by private sale, public sale, lease, trade or barter but do not go directly to slaughter be certified negative for trichomoniasis. It was also proposed that the time a trich test is valid be increased from 30 to 60 days.

The design and complexity of trichomoniasis programs vary from state to state, but they are accomplishing the same goal--controlling the spread of trichomoniasis.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at

Date: 2/11/2013


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