Trichomoniasis is a confounding and potentially very costly disease, and while the disease is well understood, determining the best prevention or control strategy for an individual ranch can be complicated.
During last week’s Academy of Veterinary Consultants (AVC) conference in Norman, Oklahoma, Kansas State University veterinarian Bob Larson, DVM, PhD, outlined a new tool, Trich CONSULT, designed to allow veterinarians to help clients assess their risk and make informed decisions for preventing the disease or ridding their infected herds of trich.
Trichomoniasis, or “trich,” is a sexually transmitted disease for which there is no approved treatment in the United States. Bulls that contract the disease generally remain infected for life, and easily transmit the pathogen to females at breeding. Cows tend to naturally clear the pathogen within a few months, but a few can remain carriers and infected cows can spread the disease to bulls. Once in a herd, Larson says, trich causes embryonic deaths and abortions, and can reduce calving percentage in a herd or breeding group by 50 percent or more.
Several states have listed trich as a reportable disease and enacted specific testing requirements for non-virgin bulls entering the state, and in some cases for bulls sold within the state. Keeping infected bulls out of a breeding herd, and culling for slaughter any infected bulls found, is the best way to prevent introduction of the disease. But even with diagnostic tests available, that is not as simple as it sounds. One veterinarian in the audience related a story of a bull – a $30,000 AI sire – that jumped a fence to visit a neighbor’s herd of mixed, sale-barn cows. The visit lasted only about 40 minutes, but the bull subsequently tested positive for trich, which if confirmed, reduces his value to that of a salvage animal.
Fenceline contact with neighbors’ cattle is just one of the risk factors for trich, and the list of risk factors, along with a client’s level of risk tolerance, determine the most appropriate control strategies. That is where the Trich CONSULT tool comes in. CONSULT, in this case, stands for Consistent Online Novel Science-Based User-friendly Learning Tool. The website provides an interactive process through which a veterinarian and client can walk through a series of questions leading to recommendations for prevention or elimination of trich from a herd.
Once on the site, the user answers a series of questions related to their risk of trich with a choice of two answers. The first simply asks whether the herd have trich. Answers include:
· Yes, the herd has trich as determined through a positive diagnostic test.
· No, the herd does not, or I am unsure.
If the user indicates the herd has trich, the next questions focus on testing, culling post-culling surveillance. If the user indicates the herd does not, as far as they know, have trich, the next questions focus on prevention and on steps for determining whether an unknown infection could be present.
Through the process, the site includes an information icon, which the user can click to view more detailed explanation of the question being asked and how to answer the question based on the best information available. Through user input, the tool offers detailed recommendations for prevention or eradication of trich based on objective, science-based risk factors. Once completed, the user can print out a report summarizing the results for future reference.
Hosted by Kansas State University, the Trich CONSULT tool was developed by K-State veterinarians in cooperation with several trich experts including researchers and practitioners from across North America.
The tool is available online at trichconsult.org.