Trichomoniasis: The Best Treatment is Prevention

Bovine Trichomoniasis, commonly referred to as “Trich”, is a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease in cattle resulting in infertility and early abortions. It is caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite called Tritrichomonas foetus. In the bull, this organism lives and grows in the microscopic folds on the skin of the penis and prepuce. In the cow, the organism lives and grows in the vagina and uterus.

Economic losses from Trich can be devastating for a producer due to reduced calf crop, lower weaning weights, and longer calving seasons. The reduced calf crop results from many cows having aborted. Calves being born late in the sea-son results in lighter weaning weights and a prolonged calving season.

The affected cow can build immunity after about 90 days, yet the immunity is short-lived, and she can be re-infected. The affected bull, on the other hand, will show no clinical signs of the disease and will appear normal on a breeding soundness exam (BSE) or physical exam. His sexual behavior or semen quality will be normal which results in him transmitting Trich to susceptible cows during breeding. It has been reported that some cows can be carriers and not eliminate the organism, which makes it extremely difficult to eradicate the disease once it is established in a herd. Often producers don’t realize that they have Trich until they discover a high percentage of open cows at pregnancy diagnosis or notice many cows cycling all breeding season long.

Lowering your risk
Since Trich is a reproductive disease, producers can minimize their risk by buying only virgin heifers or confirmed pregnant females or pairs that have not had any bull exposure since calving. The greatest risk is purchasing non-virgin bulls that have not tested negative for Trich. Therefore, some states have made it illegal to purchase open, non-virgin cows or heifers, or non-virgin breeding bulls which have not been tested free of Trich. These animals cannot be used for breeding purposes and must go to slaughter. Sometimes it is very tempting to purchase these animals since they are usually younger and cheaper than bred animals, yet introducing Trich into a herd could be economically devastating for a producer. Producers should check with their state’s Animal Industry Board prior to purchasing these animals.

Trichomoniasis is usually suspected after a significant number of cows are confirmed open at preg checking time. Trich can be confirmed by a veterinarian taking preputial samples and sending them to a certified lab to examine for the Trich organisms.

The most effective way to control Trichomoniasis is to pre-vent the organism from entering your herd. Currently there is a vaccine available, but it only helps protect the Trich organism from causing abortions and does not eliminate the organism or prevent animals from contracting Trich.

In conclusion, Trich can be very costly for a producer. Prevention is the best way to control Trich, by purchasing only virgin or confirmed pregnant females and virgin or Trich negative tested bulls. Most cows can eventually eliminate the organism yet can be re-infected and there can be carrier animals. Bulls never eliminate the organism. Check with your state Animal Industry Board before purchasing non-virgin animals for breeding purposes.