Trich, Dealing with the disease
“This started five years ago when 48 percent of my cows were open. The next year we had a decent preg test rate, then the following year we had 12 percent open and we thought we were winning. Then two years ago we had 20 percent of our cows open and 33 percent last fall,” says northeast Wyoming rancher Lloyd Davis of what he suspects is trichomoniasis (trich) in his cow herd.
“Based on our symptoms, the University of Wyoming (UW) said we had trich. So we tested our bulls the three necessary times and they all came back negative. UW decided the bulls were clean at that point, and two vets told me it was dumb to sell that many bulls. Now I wish I had sold every single one of them,” adds Davis.
Some of Davis’s bulls have been tested as many as nine times, and they’ve always come up clean. Then last summer a neighbor’s bull got into Davis’s cows. That bull tested dirty, while Davis’ bulls continued to test clean.
“Our bulls tested clean five times, but the neighbor ended up with a dirty bull. It seems funny the neighbor came up with a dirty bull when they don’t have any symptoms in their own herd and our bulls were clean and 30 percent of the cows in that pasture were open.
“I trust that my vet and everyone at UW is doing a great job and is really working with us, but I question the validity of the test after that experience. They kept telling me my bulls were just tested and are clean, yet that dirty bull came out of my pasture. Somewhere, something isn’t matching up. I don’t know if they can miss it in bulls, but with the number of open cows I had last fall there is no way all those bulls were clean,” he adds.
Being able to test a bull found on your place is one option Davis believes producers should have the right to exercise.
“I don’t care if I have to pay for the test. If he’s carrying something, it’s a lot cheaper to pay $15 or $20 than to get a 50 percent calf crop the following year. If my bull wasn’t where he belonged I would happy to let that guy test him, too,” notes Davis.
The mandatory quarantine is another aspect Davis says is all right.
“The quarantine is unhandy, but it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened. If your herd is in this mess and you have to test and go through a quarantine, that cost is a pretty cheap trip compared to having the disease,” he notes.
“If people will take it seriously and not worry about being quarantined to the point they quit testing, it will work itself out. If they’re even remotely suspicious, it’s worth the risk of being quarantined,” adds northeast Wyoming rancher Bill Lambert.
Davis feels the worst part is getting people excited about something like this.
“It takes a wreck before people wake up. I don’t like being told what to do, but quarantines have their place and if someone’s bull is causing me these thousands of dollars worth of damage, I feel I should have the right to test him,” he says.
Lambert adds that if all producers had taken the issue seriously 10 or 15 years ago, then the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) wouldn’t have to mandate things today.
“When you have producers who don’t take it seriously, the Board has to become involved. It won’t clean itself up,” says Lambert.
Trich was addressed during the June 2 WLSB meeting in Casper, where Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan told Board members that 6,600 bulls have been tested since Dec.1, 2009 and 15 infected bulls were found through those tests.
“These 15 bulls are from seven different herds in multiple counties. Of those infected animals at least two were found as a result of a Board order,” notes Logan.
One issue meeting attendees voiced was re-breeding cows found open after a breeding season. Open cows are a concern, but, according to Logan it’s currently easier and more economical to test bulls.
“Bulls are infected for life if they get it. Cows that are infected will spontaneously clean up 99.9 percent of the time between 100 and 220 days. So, depending on the situation, spring bred cows that have gone an entire winter without any bull exposure probably don’t pose a high risk. But if they’re fall-bred cows it’s a different story. To test females you take a blood sample from the reproductive tract and it goes through the same mechanisms as a bull test,” explained Logan.
“The state is becoming more aware of the scale of this problem and they need to do what they’re doing,” says Davis. “People in this part of the world who won’t test or ship their drys are how we ended up with this mess in the first place.”
Davis adds he’s never kept a dry cow over, or bought a non-virgin bull.
“If a cow doesn’t have a calf, you better know why and you better cull her,” he says.
Davis keeps his herd in two bunches and is working to phase out the suspect infected herd. He also vaccinated all of his cows and bulls last year.
“Maybe I should have sold them all in the first place and started over, but when they’ve tested clean that many times you want to believe it. We’ve tested so many times, and my vets and the UW guys have spent hundreds of hours trying to figure this out and just trying to keep up with it. Today we’re exactly where we were five years ago, without a clue to go on except one neighbor’s dirty bull in my pasture,” states Davis.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.