Time to Harmonize Trich Regulations

January 3, 2014 07:20 PM
Greg Henderson cropped

Disease losses are always devastating, but current high cattle prices magnify those economic impacts for producers. Of all the diseases you must cope with, trichomoniasis has the potential to be one of the most economically destructive.

Trichomoniasis, commonly called trich, is a sexually transmitted disease in cattle that results in infertility and embryonic loss in cows and heifers. Bulls are the carriers of the disease but show no outward signs of infection. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for infected bulls, so diagnostic testing before turning bulls in with your cows is crucial.

Recent years have seen an increase in trichomoniasis in some states. That’s especially important now when our industry needs to produce as many calves as we can with the cows we have.

Economic signals encourage producers to expand their herds, but herd health will play an impor­tant role in achieving that goal. A trichomoniasis outbreak can thwart any expansion efforts as otherwise healthy cows will be open at pregnancy checking.

A major hurdle to control trich is the wide variation between states in regulations and testing. Each state can implement regulations and testing procedures, which can cause confusion, additional handling of animals and varying diagnostic test results.

Efforts are underway, however, to harmonize—or standardize—trich regulations and testing. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is helping facilitate the harmonization of trich regulations between states. Kansas and Nebraska producers have already launched efforts toward that goal.

NCBA chief veterinarian Kathy Simmons says the varying and ever-changing rules between states make compliance difficult.

Two tests. One issue complicating management of the disease is that two tests are available, and states can define which one is acceptable. Most states accept culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results. Typically, testing is done either by collecting up to three cultures during a three-week period or by providing a single culture for real-time PCR testing.

"Certainly, conducting one real-time PCR test as opposed to collecting three cultures is easier, less invasive and less dangerous for the animal and handler," says Jeff Baxter, senior product mana­ger for Life Technologies.

He says all 25 states with trich regulations have validated the use of PCR as an officially accepted diagnostic test, and because of technology improvements in the overall laboratory work flow, some states have taken the next step in defining PCR as the only official test allowed for compliance.

While there appears to be common ground to develop consistent trich regulations among states, the economic importance of the disease makes it critical that states take action immediately. Encourage your state veterinarian to join efforts to harmonize trich regulations. Your calves are too valuable to lose to a preventable disease.

greg henderson
Editorial Director, Beef Today, writes from Mission, Kan.

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