Vaccination And Disease Testing Protocols For Interstate Cattle Movement

As you work through the various processes involved with interstate cattle movement, consider vaccinations and tests for four key diseases as well as the need for official identification (ID) practices.
As you work through the various processes involved with interstate cattle movement, consider vaccinations and tests for four key diseases as well as the need for official identification (ID) practices.
(File Photo)

As you work through the various processes involved with interstate cattle movement, consider vaccinations and tests for four key diseases as well as the need for official identification (ID) practices, advises Amanda Price, DVM, MS, assistant state veterinarian for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. (This article is a companion piece to Certificates of Veterinary Inspection Are Crucial To Successful Interstate Cattle Transports)

She says official ID includes orange metal or RFID brucellosis tags, “silver brite” NUES tags, and RFID tags beginning with the number 840. RFID tags starting with a 900-number are only considered official ID if applied before March 2015. Canada currently requires RFID tags for identification, and Price says the USDA may require RFID as soon as 2023.

“You cannot use the bangle tag number as an official ID for CVIs,” she says. Some states may allow registration tattoos as official ID.

Here are four diseases you might encounter:

1. Brucellosis
Who gets the vaccine? This is typically for female cattle over 4 months old (between three and 12 months of age to be official calfhood vaccinates). A few states allow for adult vaccination.

How do you prove an animal was vaccinated for brucellosis? While an orange metal or RFID tag is a good indicator that an animal has been vaccinated, a legible tattoo is required for proof of vaccination.

Which test? Buffered acidified plate antigen (BAPA), fluorescence polarization assay (FPA), complement fixation (CF): “There are so many tests available,” says Price. “When I was in practice, I never knew which one to request, so I’d just write the name of the state and let the lab figure it out.” The BAPA is the most commonly accepted, unless cattle are going to Mexico.

2. Tuberculosis
Which test? A caudal fold test (CFT), where tuberculin is injected intradermally in the hairless part of the tail, must be palpated, not just observed, 72 hours after injection (with only six hours of leeway), Price says: “If you can feel anything, any edema, swelling or firmness, the animal must be considered suspect, and the USDA or the state will perform the confirmatory test.”

Why is it important to find suspects? “The government expects 1% to 5% of cattle to be suspect on the CFT,” Price says. “If you never find a suspect in your testing, you will show up on the state’s and USDA’s radar.” Let your state veterinarian or USDA know as soon as you get a positive with the CFT, because a confirmatory test must be done within seven days. The CFT and confirmatory tests together can take up to one and a half to two weeks, so don’t perform this test too close to your shipment date.

Why 60 days, not 30 days, like other testing? The test can’t be repeated within 60 days, because animals retested within 60 days are less likely to have a positive response to the tuberculin.

3. Trichomoniasis
Which test? A PCR test for this venereal disease is performed on smegma from bulls or vaginal mucus from cows. Pooled PCR testing may not be accepted by states. Veterinarians must be certified to test for trichomoniasis by their State Veterinarian.

Why's it a problem? A positive bull means the entire herd may have been exposed, which can explain prolonged heat cycles from early embryonic death in infected females. Herds with year-round breeding make disease control tricky, Price says: “If any bulls in a herd are positive, you need to assume the entire herd has been exposed.” Positive bulls are culled, and other bulls are retested. Female cattle who’ve been in a herd with bulls of positive or uncertain trichomoniasis status may not be included in a CVI for transport to some states, including Utah, Price says.

4. Vesicular stomatitis
Why’s it a problem? “It can look like foot-and-mouth disease,” Price says, affecting horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs with lesions in the mouth and on other parts. Infected animals may refuse to eat or drink and show signs of lameness: “If you see signs, you need to call your state veterinarian or USDA immediately.” Price says.  This disease pops up every few years in the United States. Researchers aren’t clear on how this disease spreads, but insects may be involved.

How do you prove it? States may require health inspections to take place anywhere from 24 hours to 14 days before transport and include a statement that animals from particular areas have shown no clinical signs. “Let horse owners know this can affect them, too,” she says.

Brendan Howard is a freelance writer based in Olathe, Kan., who has been writing about and for veterinarians for more than 14 years.


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