Protect Cattle from Lepto and Other Feral-Swine Disease

The greatest threat to cattle from feral swine is disease transmission. ( John Maday )

With nearly 77% of all livestock located in regions with feral swine and up to 34 known diseases those swine can transmit, it’s crucial for beef producers to protect their cattle from exposure to feral-swine disease risks.

“The biggest struggle we’re having with feral hogs is that we’re starting to see more of them, and in parts of the country we’ve never seen them before,” said Jody Wade, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim. “They’re spreading disease to cattle that, unfortunately, can cause a lot of problems, including reproductive diseases.”

The greatest threat to cattle from feral swine is disease transmission. Transmission usually happens when swine contaminate feed and water sources. This can infect cattle with a handful of costly diseases such as Brucellosis, Pathogenic E. coli and leptospirosis,2 one of the most common reproductive diseases leading to production and financial losses.3

The following steps can help beef veterinarians and producers make strides to protect cattle from exposure to feral-swine disease risks:

 Increase biosecurity

For producers experiencing feral swine in their area, Dr. Wade recommends making sure that their operation has a good fence. It’s hard to keep feral swine away from livestock, and barbed wire fences typically don’t offer the best protection. Net wire fences provide a barrier that pigs can’t go through or underneath. Not only can fences protect cattle from disease transmission, they can also protect farm equipment and crops from being damaged by feral swine.

Another key component is to avoid feeding cattle on the ground. A lot of producers don’t realize that by feeding cattle on the ground, they are increasing the risk of pathogen transmission. When feral swine have access to feed, it is easy for them to contaminate it with their saliva or urine, putting cattle at risk the next time they eat.

Practice prevention

“When beef producers ask about prevention, I tell them vaccination is the number one tool to protect cattle from exposure,” said Dr. Wade.

Killed vaccines that protect against leptospirosis are easy to add to any protocol as a first line of defense. More often than not, when a producer purchases their cattle, they are given limited information on the animals’ previous preventive health programs. Since killed vaccines only contain killed antigens, they offer safe and effective protection regardless of previous vaccination status. They can also be administered to cattle of all ages and at all stages of production.

“If we vaccinate routinely for leptospirosis, we know we can control it,” Dr. Wade concluded.

To learn more about vaccination plans and protocols to control diseases of feral swine, producers should work closely with their veterinarians. 

For more on leptospirosis, see these articles from BovineVetOnline:

Is Leptospirosis Lurking?

Challenges of Getting a Lepto Diagnosis

Lepto: Important but Potentially Misleading

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