Help Protect Your Cows’ Pregnancies

Published on: 14:24PM Sep 06, 2012

Bovine leptospirosis, one of the most significant infectious diseases of cattle reproduction, can go undetected and spread to other cows in your herd.

GREG EDWARDS Pfizer picture 2009By Dr. Greg Edwards, Dairy Technical Services, Pfizer Animal Health

Successful dairy operations need successful pregnancies. Your reproductive program takes an investment in time, energy and money. A study on the economic value of pregnancies estimates each pregnancy costs between $200 and $400, and an abortion could cost up to $555.1 Don’t waste your investment. Make sure you’re helping protect your cows against costly reproductive diseases.

Bovine leptospirosis is one of the most significant infectious diseases affecting cattle reproduction.2 Aside from occasional symptoms such as fever or loss of appetite, leptospirosis can go undetected and spread to other cows in your herd. Your dairy may already be infected with Leptospira if you are seeing poor reproductive performance, delayed breeding, unexplained infertility, early embryonic deaths, weak or stillborn calves, or abortions.

A highly complex disease, leptospirosis can come in many shapes and sizes. Several different Leptospira serovars exist, including Lepto hardjo-bovis.

Understanding Lepto hardjo-bovis

The key to limiting the damage of Lepto hardjo-bovis is preventing disease before it is established. Lepto hardjo-bovis can have detrimental reproductive effects, such as infertility or failed pregnancies. Cows infected with Lepto hardjo-bovis can be eight times less likely to become pregnant.3

Lepto hardjo-bovis can wreak havoc on your dairy’s reproductive program and keep infecting more cattle because cows that become chronically infected can pass Lepto hardjo-bovis to others. Lepto hardjo-bovis typically enters the cow through mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and mouth through breaks in the skin. The Leptospira immediately enter the bloodstream, where they begin to replicate and spread throughout the body, infecting the kidneys, spleen, eyes and reproductive tract. The leptospires thrive in these warm, damp locations.

Antibodies try to fight the infection, but Lepto hardjo-bovis can survive in some privileged areas such as the kidney tubules and genital tract. Surviving leptospires eventually pass out of the cow in the urine. Shedding in the urine can do two things: expose the reproductive tract to an infection, causing reproductive problems, and expose other cows to the disease. These chronically infected or host cattle can shed the disease intermittently or continuously for several weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime, if not stopped.4

There are ways to help manage and help prevent Lepto hardjo-bovis on your dairy.

• Limit exposure to standing water: Don’t allow any standing surface water where animals congregate. Fence off any areas of standing water if your cattle are out on pasture.

• Provide clean, adequate bedding space: When in the barn or pen, be sure to bed the area properly and to regularly remove old bedding. Also, make sure your cows have plenty of standing and resting space so they aren’t crowded.

• Start a reproductive vaccination program: Work with your veterinarian to establish a reproductive vaccination program that includes a vaccine that helps provide protection where it matters most — the reproductive tract. BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP® 5 L5 HB* is the only viral combination vaccine that prevents Lepto hardjo-bovis infections in the kidney, shedding in the urine, and prevents establishment in the reproductive tract. No other vaccines carry the “prevention of infection” claim — the highest label claim — for Lepto hardjo-bovis.

When your reproductive program is on the line, be sure to help protect your herd against reproductive diseases such as Lepto hardjo-bovis. Successful pregnancies and the success of your dairy depend on it. Visit to learn more about vaccinating against Lepto hardjo-bovis.

*Do not use in pregnant cattle (abortions can result) unless they were vaccinated, according to label directions, with any BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP or PREGGUARD GOLD FP vaccine prebreeding initially and within 12 months thereafter. Do not use in calves nursing pregnant cows unless their dams were vaccinated within the past 12 months as described above. To help ensure safety in pregnant cattle, heifers must receive at least 2 doses of any BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP or PREGGUARD GOLD FP vaccine with the second dose administered approximately 30 days prebreeding.

1 De Vries A. Economic value of pregnancy in dairy cattle. J Dairy Sci 2006;89(10):3876-3885.
2 Ellis WA, Thiermann AB. Isolation of leptospires from the genital tract of Iowa cows. AM J Vet Res 1986;47(8):1694-1696.
3 Guitian J, Thurmond MC, Hietala SK. Infertility and abortion among first-lactation dairy cows seropositive and seronegative for Leptospira interrogans serovar hardjo. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;215(4):515-518.
4 Ellis WA. Leptospirosis as a cause of reproductive failure. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 1994;10(3):463-478.

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