Texas proposes new trich rulesDuring a Commission meeting on May 13, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) adopted several proposed amendments to the state’s animal-health regulations, including several changes regarding trichomoniasis (trich) testing, herd certification and entry requirements for cattle.  

For trich testing and herd certification, the TAHC adopted four proposed amendments, which are open to public comment through July 7. The proposed amendments would:

  • Add testing requirements for a herd of origin when a bull from the herd is sold and subsequently found to be infected with Trich.
  • Require testing when a bull is separated from its unit of origin, such as when a bull is found on property not owned by the owner/caretaker of the bull (stray), and that bull is found to be infected with Trich. Under the proposal, the pasture (unit) of origin, and pasture where the stray Trich bull was located will both be placed under hold order, and any additional bulls located there must be tested for Trich.
  • Allow TAHC to evaluate the effectiveness of a herd control plan for an infected herd leading to the possible continuation or disapproval of the herd plan based on the progress or lack of progress made in controlling the disease within the herd.
  • Require herds enrolled in the Trich Herd Certification Program to have perimeter fences that are adequate to prevent the ingress or egress of cattle.

TAHC also proposed a new rule relating to entry requirements for cattle. The proposed amendment will clarify the bovine trich entry requirements and testing exemptions. The proposal adds new testing exemptions for out of state bulls enrolled in a Texas bull test station trial and for out of state bulls originating from approved Certified Trich Free Herd programs. A detailed explanation of the rule proposal will be available on Friday, June 20, 2014, on the TAHC website. A public comment period will begin at that time, with a deadline of July 21.  

Trich can cause significant losses in cow-calf herds through reduced calving rates, and animal-health officials in Texas and elsewhere are working to reduce the risk of introducing infected animals to herds while still allowing movement of seedstock and other cattle. During a national forum on trichomoniasis standards, co-hosted by the National Institute of Animal Agriculture and the U.S. Animal Health Association in April, Texas A&M University economist David Anderson, PhD, outlined his estimates of the potential economic impact of trich in Texas cattle herds. Anderson worked with university veterinarians to develop a set of assumptions and calculate the annual losses across the Texas cow-calf sector attributable to trich. He estimates that 20 percent of the 150,000 beef herds in Texas have some degree of trich infection in any year. Based on research, he used an average calving rate of 85 percent for the 80 percent of herds that do not have trich and a 73 percent calving rate for herds that do have it.

For this model, he based the estimates on a 90-day calving season. When cows are exposed to trich from bulls during breeding, they often conceive but lose the fetus 50 to 80 days into gestation. Over time, cows typically clear the infection and return to near-normal fertility in two to five months. So, with a 90-day breeding season, trich-infected cows probably will be open at the end of breeding. A longer breeding season could increase calving rate, but late calves would be much lighter at weaning, also resulting in financial losses.

Based on Anderson’s assumptions, trich could be reducing annual calf production in Texas by 2.5 percent, or 96,000 calves. Using 2013 averages, the lost revenue for those calves would be $95 million. At the finishing level, the lost value for those 96,000 missing calves is another $156 million.

He also applied his model to an actual ranch using historical data from Texas A&M’s Agriculture and Food Policy Center. Anderson selected a 335-cow operation and examined the impact of a 73 percent calving rate versus 85 percent.  The model shows the loss of 40 calves at a 73 percent calving rate would result in a reduction of $44,000 in net farm revenue, and because the farm would have invested in maintaining the cows and all other associated costs, that loss represents an 81 percent reduction in net farm revenue, which clearly would not be sustainable for the business over time.

Read more about the TAHC proposed rules