During the recent meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), considerable discussion centered on trichomoniasis and the need for states to move toward more standardization of rules intended to prevent introduction of the disease into cattle herds.
Trichomoniasis, or “trich,” is a sexually transmitted protozoan disease that causes pregnancy loss or abortion in the cow, prolonged calving intervals and high open rates in infected herds. An infected bull can quickly spread the disease to a high percentage of females in a herd. To reduce the risk of transmission, several states have adopted rules requiring documentation of trich testing for some classes of breeding cattle imported from other states. Twenty-five states, mostly in the West, have adopted cattle-import rules relating to trichomoniasis. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are the only Eastern states with such rules.
Inconsistency in those requirements, however, and in some cases overly stringent regulations, create burdensome barriers to seedstock trade. Seedstock producers, who routinely sell cattle to customers from neighboring or distant states, face an array of testing and documentation requirements, adding complexity and cost to their efforts for timely delivery of cattle following sales.
Dr. Kathy Simmons, chief veterinarian for NCBA, says this issue has emerged as a topic of discussion within the organization’s Cattle Health and Well Being Committee. Producers and veterinarians, she says, have expressed concerns over significantly different rules from state to state, often not based on objective risk assessments. Now, she says, state veterinarians and animal-health officials are continuing those discussions within USAHA, which has formed a subcommittee on trichomoniasis.
Simmons says NCBA encourages state officials to work toward harmonization in four areas:
1. Determine a consistent specification of the age for testing bulls. Current rules range from 12 months to 24 months of age.
2. Reach a consensus on accepted documentation. For example, some states accept veterinarian certification for virgin bulls in place of testing, while others do not.
3. Standardize specifications for testing procedures. Some states require a three-culture test, some require single PCR tests and some even require both. The three-culture process, Simmons says, requires handling bulls three times, increasing the risk of injury to bulls and handlers. Some states allow results of pooled PCR testing, which offers an economical alternative to individual tests.
4. Extend the validity of test results from 30 days to 60, to allow more flexibility in seedstock marketing.
Simmons acknowledges national harmonization of trich rules probably won’t become a reality anytime soon. However, cooperation between adjoining states could bring more uniform standards within a region, allowing more efficient marketing of seedstock animals. Once some states or groups of states demonstrate they can prevent introduction of the disease while using standardized, risk-based and market-friendly requirements for testing and documentation, other states likely will follow.