PINE BLUFF, Ark. – All bulls sold in Arkansas for breeding must now be tested for trichomoniasis, says Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB).
Until this announcement on June 14 by Arkansas State Veterinarian Dr. George Pat Badley, testing was only required for bulls brought into the state, says Dr. Fernandez who advises producers who have recently purchased bulls to have them tested before turning them out with the cows. “This will help avoid significant economic losses,” says Dr. Fernandez.
Trichomoniasis, commonly called “Trich” (pronounced trick), is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a microscopic parasite called a protozoan (Tritrichomonas foetus). These parasites are found in the fluids produced in the bull’s sheath and in the cow’s entire reproductive tract. There are no signs of the disease in infected bulls, but the disease causes early abortions in cows, says Dr. Fernandez.
In most cases the abortion is not noticed because it occurs at such an early stage. A small number of cows may exhibit a noticeable uterine infection with an odorous discharge in addition to aborting. As many as half of the cows exposed to an infected bull may contract the disease.
No treatment is available for the disease, says Dr. Fernandez. Cows will develop a natural immunity within a month or so, but once infected, bulls never overcome the infection and will transmit the disease for the rest of their lives. Cows should be vaccinated yearly before the breeding season begins. Infected bulls should be identified and sold for slaughter, advises Dr. Fernandez.
Young bulls are not especially susceptible to the disease, but as they age beyond three years of age, the potential for infection increases. Trich testing costs about $50 and requires about two weeks to obtain results. Bulls should not be used until their infection status is known. Artificial insemination can be an effective way to reduce the transmission of Trich and has been shown to be the best available control method available.