The spread of the sexually transmitted disease trichomoniasis that can cause cows to lose their calves appears to be slowing in Colorado, USA, and state agriculture officials plan to strengthen policies to keep it that way. Trichomoniasis or "trich," is of particular concern in the western part of the state, where grazing associations and permits for grazing on public land allow cattle to co-mingle.
Dozens of Colorado producers were hit with trich last year. Some 43 cattle facilities in 18 counties were quarantined so infected bulls wouldn't spread the sexually transmitted disease. So far this year, 13 facilities in eight counties have been quarantined, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Four counties had quarantines as of July 30.
Colorado ranked fifth among US cattle-producing states with $3.1 billion in sales of cattle and calves in 2007, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
AI and virgin bulls
No vaccines are available to prevent the disease, but using artificial insemination and virgin bulls helps control its spread.
Bulls are the main carriers of trichomoniasis and, once infected, remain infected for life, although they show no signs of disease.
For cattle ranchers who depend on their cows for calves, the disease can be devastating. Research by Colorado State University suggests the disease can cost a ranch an average of $143 per cow in a 300-cow herd, or nearly $43,000. Trich testing generally costs $1.25 to $5.50 per animal. While cows can clear the infection after a few months, bulls remain infected.
Texas, the nation's largest cattle producing state, adopted trich prevention regulations April 1. At least 15 other states in the West, including Colorado, New Mexico and South Dakota, have their own programs.
After consulting the livestock industry, universities and rules in other states, Colorado agriculture officials are changing policies, including notifying veterinarians as soon as possible in areas where trich is present and tagging cows from infected herds before they get to a livestock auction.