Advancing your herd’s genetic base requires a tremendous commitment of time and financial resources.  Unfortunately, reproductive diseases can erase the benefits of those investments in short order.

Reproduction can be impacted by multiple diseases, with three major ones potentially impacting your herd, says Doug Ensley, DVM, Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., based in Athens, Ga. “Leptospirosis, Trichomoniasis and Vibriosis all need to be prevented to protect the reproductive integrity of your herd,” he says.

While these diseases vary in their causative organisms and modes of action, the results of all three are painfully similar.  Ensley says Leptospirosis, Trichomoniasis, and Vibriosis can interfere with conception and can cause early embryonic death, while Leptospirosis also can cause late-term abortions and weak calves. Trichomoniasis also can cause abortions up to four months of gestation.

“Often, the first sign of these diseases is open cows at pregnancy checking or a reduced calf crop,” says Ensley.  “By then, the best opportunity to achieve efficient reproduction and uniform calving dates has been lost, not to mention the investment that may have been made in genomics testing and high-value semen.” Additional losses may be incurred with the decreased weights of the calves born later in your calving season, and because some animals eventually may need to be culled from the herd and replaced.

Those setbacks are complicated by the fact that, once infected, animals need to resolve the infections before fertility can be restored.  For example, Ensley says it takes up to three months for Trichomoniasis to clear from the uterus of infected cows, and animals harboring Leptospirosis in their kidney tissue can shed the disease-causing organism in their urine for the rest of their lives.

Vaccine protection is available for all three diseases, but Ensley says the timing of vaccination is critical.  “Traditionally, preg checking has been a convenient time to also administer vaccines,” he says.  “But that’s too late to protect the conceptus from these diseases.”  Ideally, he would like to see vaccination initiated at least 30 days prior to breeding to ensure protection before conception.

Ensley says appropriate vaccine selection depends on herd history and local disease conditions, and should be based on the advice of the herd veterinarian.  Vaccines that offer a broad range of coverage can be helpful in protecting against more than one of the diseases.  For example, Citatdel VL5 covers Vibrio and five strains of Lepto.  Express FP 5 VL5 protects against IBR, BVD Types I and II, PI3, BRSV, Vibrio and five strains of Lepto, including the highly virulent Lepto hardjo-bovis strain.

TrichGuard V5L protects against Trichomoniasis, Vibrio and five strains of Lepto.  It should be delivered in two prebreeding doses, with the second dose administered 30 days before breeding.  Booster shots of all three vaccines also are important for optimal protection, and should be administered according to each product’s labeled directions.

Preventive measures also can be taken to reduce herd exposure to reproductive diseases.  Ensley recommends that you:

(1)   Isolate new animals – both bulls and females – for at least 30 days.  Observe for physical health and test bulls for reproductive diseases.  Vaccinate all new animals before releasing them to the rest of the herd.

(2)   Provide drinking water from tanks or water troughs rather than ponds or streams.

(3)   Do not purchase open, sale barn cows.

(4)   Keep fences in good repair.

(5)   Do not share bulls with other herds, and purchase virgin bulls.

“Reproductive diseases can be frustrating and costly,” says Ensley.  “By staying ahead of them with vaccination and other management steps, their damaging effects can be avoided.”

To learn more about beef herd health and replacement heifer management, talk to your veterinarian and visit

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (St. Joseph, MO) is a subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation, based in Ridgefield, CT, and a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies.