Collaboration and flexibility have helped build a trichomoniasis control program that seems to work for producers, markets and veterinarians in Texas. Dee Ellis, DVM MPA and Texas state veterinarian, outlined the evolution of the program during a Trichomoniasis Forum hosted this week by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA).
Ellis describes how the program began in January 2010, when state animal-health officials laid out a plan borrowing components from programs in other states. They intended the program to be voluntary and focused on control of trichomoniasis, as opposed to eradication. They also wanted the program to be industry-driven, with strong voluntary participation from ranchers, markets and practicing veterinarians. Toward that goal, they built a working group including representatives from the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Texas Independent Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Veterinary Medical Association. The group would meet annually to evaluate the program and recommend refinements.
The group met for the first time in May 2010, just a few months after the program launched, and right out of the gate made some changes to the original program. Initially for example, the program allowed 30 days from the date of the trich test until delivery for bulls imported into the state. After input from industry, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) changed the test validity to 60 days so sellers would be less likely to re-test bulls if sales or delivery were delayed. The group also decided neighbors should be notified when a ranch finds a positive animal, but the neighbors would not be required to conduct testing, and they added provisions for untested bulls transferring ownership in-state to go to certified feedlots.
A year later, in May 2011, the group made further changes, such as requiring testing of all imported bulls over 12 months of age, rather than accepting certification of virgin status. They also allowed out-of-state untested bulls to go to feedlots, and allowed infected bulls to be sold at markets and moved under permit to slaughter. They specified 60 days as the maximum time for retesting bulls in infected herds, and decided to accept pooled samples for one of two quarantine release tests, but not for change of ownership. The group also developed a control herd plan for large ranches, allowing three years to manage problem while testing once each year, sending all cull bulls to slaughter and managing the disease in the cow herd with the assistance of a veterinarian.
In 2012, the group made changes to allow pool samples for change of ownership, allow pool samples for both quarantine tests and changed the submission times for shipping samples from 96 to 120 hours to accommodate Monday holidays, if the samples are incubated at veterinary clinic.
In 2013, changes based on industry input included allowing buyers of untested bulls seven days to decide whether they would test the bull, send it to a feedlot, resell it or send it to slaughter. They also allowed bulls older than 12 months to come home from bull station trials without testing.
This May, Ellis expects the group to further evaluate the program, considering the benefits of past changes and discussing additional changes. Discussions will include stronger traceback for bulls testing positive, testing animals in fenceline contact with positive herds, age limits for virgin status, use of sample transit tubes versus N-pouches and extending the control program into the cow herd. Many of the discussion points likely will not move forward this year, Ellis says, but he expects the program to continue evolving.
Ellis says the industry-driven program has helped producers protect the marketability and value of their cattle, helped the TAHC retain an adequate workforce for all its disease program, strengthened relationships and trust between the regulatory agency, livestock markets and producers and helped practicing veterinarians generate revenue through trich testing and control programs in client herds.