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Trichomoniasis continues to cause problems for cattle across the West

Trichomoniasis continues to threaten the U.S. cattle industry, particularly in the West, and veterinarians and producers are taking steps to decrease the presence of the disease.

“Trichomoniasis (trich) infection of cattle is a devastating disease for cattle producers,” write N. Striegel, R. Ellis and J. Deering. “When diagnosed in a herd, it causes economic loss and emotional pain.”

Striegel, Ellis and Deering wrote a 2009 bulletin on trich titled, “Trichomoniasis prevention: The cost per cow to prevent.”

“Across the West, the states who are looking for trich are finding it,” says Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan. “Many of the states in the East who didn’t used to look for it have also found trich in their cattle herds.”

Etiology

Trich is not a new disease or a new concern for cattle producers. 

The protozoan organism Trichomonas foetus causes the venereal disease in cattle. It lives in the reproductive tract of the cow and in the sheath of a bull’s penis.

“The main problem that trich causes is infertility,” describes Logan. “It causes early-term abortion and short-term infertility.”

Additionally, bulls that are infected are lifelong carriers of the disease.

No treatment is available for infected animals.

“In addition to the reproductive impact, there is a huge financial impact due to replacement costs from infected animals and costs for lost calves,” Logan adds. 

Financial impacts

When trich is found in a herd, Logan notes that costs are incurred from quarantine of cattle and replacement of breeding animals, since the bulls should no longer be used.

“It is also financially impacting because of uneven calf crops,” he continues.

Liability is also a risk that comes with a trich-infected herd.

“Wyoming passed a statute during the 2013 Legislative Session allowing the Wyoming Livestock Board to identify diseases that are economically significant. The Board subsequently identified trich and B. ovis as such,” says Logan. 

As a result, if a producer does not test or finds a positive bull and does not remove the animal, they are liable for subsequent losses from other producers who may have contact with the animal.

“Not testing, or testing and knowing a producer has positive animals, puts them in a liability situation where they can be sued for economic losses if infected animals are allowed to commingle with another producer’s stock,” Logan comments.

Avoiding disease

“Trich does cause a lot of problems,” Logan comments, “but there are things that producers can do to try to avoid it.”

Logan recommends that, where possible, producers should avoid grazing in common allotments and keep a closed herd. However, he recognizes that often, that isn’t possible with available grazing.

“For producers purchasing bulls, they should only buy those animals that have been tested or are verifiable virgin bulls from reputable breeders.” Logan says. “Do not add open or late cows or cattle from unknown health status to the herd.”

With good management, he notes that trich can be avoided. 

“If people manage against it, they can usually keep trich out of their herd,” Logan adds, “but all it takes is one person in a common grazing situation who doesn’t test bulls or who introduces a bunch of open cows from potentially affected sources.”

The impacts of the disease, especially on common allotments, can be devastating for operations.

Trich prevalence

In compliance with the Wyoming Livestock Board’s rules, bulls are tested for trich statewide each year. A special focus area has also been identified for the disease in the southwest corner of the state, providing for more stringent test requirements.

In 2012-13, the Wyoming Livestock Board reported that 49 bulls tested positive for trich across five Wyoming counties. Those bulls came from 16 locations.

A total of 7,335 bulls were tested in 2012-13.

In Big Horn County, five bulls from one location were positive. In Hot Springs County, one bull was identified with trich, and in Washakie County, 24 bulls from five locations tested trich-positive.

In the southwest in the Special Focus Area, Sweetwater County saw 14 infected bulls from five locations, and Uinta County reported five positive bulls from four locations.

Continuing discussion

Logan further notes that state veterinarians are taking action to continue to work on trich. 

“At the National Institute for Animal Agriculture Conference in Omaha, Neb. at the end of March, we are going to discuss the many issues surrounding trich,” he says. “Veterinarians and producers are trying to harmonize state import requirements and state test requirements.”

The efforts come at the request of cattle producers from across the West who struggle with the disease.

“There is work going on to try to get some things done and to harmonize requirements,” Logan comments.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..