Ask the Vet

Biosecurity And Bull Health

Keeping fences in good repair is an important step to protect herd bulls from exposure to trich. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Victoria G. Myers)

Question: I hear a lot of talk about the dangers of trich. Some of my neighbors are vaccinating for it. I keep a closed herd and buy only virgin bulls from local breeders. Do I have any risk of getting trich in my herd, and should I consider vaccinating?

Answer: Trichomoniasis, or "trich" as it is commonly called, is a sneaky, nasty venereal disease caused by a single-celled protozoan, Trichomonas foetus. It is carried by infected bulls and transmitted to cows during breeding. It causes infertility, reduced pregnancy rates, extended calving seasons and, in some cases, abortions.

Infected bulls show no signs, are often infected for life and can only be diagnosed by culturing. There is no approved treatment.

Cows may show some vaginal discharge in the first weeks after being infected. Most cows will rid themselves of trich after four to five months of sexual rest, but they can become reinfected if exposed.

I always recommend that you work with your veterinarian to develop a herd health program that fits your operation's specific needs. This includes what to vaccinate for and when, as well as biosecurity to prevent the introduction of diseases into your herd.

From what you have told me, I would likely not recommend a trich vaccine for your operation. However, don't overlook the importance of keeping all fences in good repair to prevent a potentially infected bull from getting into your pasture. Maintain a solid biosecurity program, and continue with your bull-purchasing pattern.