Writer: Norman Martin
LAS CRUCES - An uptick in the number of northern New Mexico cattle with a sexually transmitted cattle disease known as bovine trichomoniasis has experts concerned enough to post new producer regulations from the state veterinarian.
"The disease isn't foreign to New Mexico," said Clay Mathis, a livestock specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "It's likely been present on communal grazing allotments for a long time, but recent diagnoses confirming the disease have heightened the priority for control and prevention."
Bovine trichomoniasis, which is caused by a parasite, has a worldwide distribution and is a major cause of infertility in naturally bred cattle in many countries. The cattle strain cannot infect humans. The disease, typically passed from bull to cow, can cause early embryonic death and abortion.
"When cows are bred naturally by an infected bull, 30 to 90 percent of the cows become infected," Mathis said.
The key link in this disease transmission process is obviously the bull, Mathis said. Bulls older than 4 are the most common carriers of the disease, but bulls of all ages can remain infected by the disease indefinitely, he said.
To slow the spread of the disease, the New Mexico Livestock Board has instituted new measurs to control and prevent trichomoniasis here in New Mexico. Arizona, Utah, and Colorado already have similar provisions.
Regulations will require a dramatic increase in the number of bulls tested for trichomoniasis each year, primarily among nonvirgin bulls that change ownership or possession if leased, Mathis said. It would also include cattle in a commuter herd or a commingled grazing association herd.
"Testing can only be conducted by a veterinarian certified to test for trichomoniasis," he said. "Certification is done through the state veterinarian's office at the New Mexico Livestock Board."
Mathis recommends that cattle producers take several precautions to keep the disease out of an uninfected herd.
They include shortening the breeding season to 90-120 days, keeping bulls separate from all cows except during the breeding season, and testing all bulls at the end of the breeding season for trichomoniasis before culling. In addition, he suggests testing all new bulls and trying to ensure that a new bull's herd of origin is trichomoniasis free.
For more information about bovine trichomoniasis or assistance in obtaining a copy of the new regulations, contact your local veterinarian or the New Mexico Livestock Board at (505) 841-6161, Mathis said.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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