New Nevada agriculture regulations aim to curb trichomonosis
Nevada Appeal News Service
State health officials are advocating better safe sex practices – among bovines.
Trichomonosis is a sexually transmitted disease passed from bulls to cows. The disease induces abortions in pregnant cows. New trichomonosis regulations took effect July 1 in an effort to cut down on the number of calves lost due to the disease.
The new regulations, handed down from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, require testing of bulls older than 8 months prior to sale or coming into the state, unless the animals are being sold directly for slaughter.
Annette Rink, acting state veterinarian, said “trich” testing is an established practice in the Western United States, where most of the bulls entering Nevada come from.
“The only reason regulations are necessary is because of the neighbors,” Rink said.
Rink said the disease has been around for as long as people have had domesticated cattle. The transmission cycle travels from bulls to cows, which in turn infect new bulls.
She said it’s difficult to test cows for the disease, but it becomes obvious once the cow aborts her fetus in the first trimester. Sometimes, though, a cow will abort while on the range and lose the chance to breed again that season, leading to losses for the producers who run those cows.
“This is a disease that cost Nevada $9 million every year in lost calf crops and cows and bulls,” said Rink. “That’s why the industry wanted regulations. It’s a very detrimental disease. It has ruined producers.
“As one producer said, ‘If somebody drove onto your ranch and stole 30 percent of your calf crop, you would get the sheriff involved. But there’s nothing you can do about this.'”
Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, said the push for the new regulations came from a producer in Churchill County.
“The issue surfaced in Churchill County, and they called on us to work to develop a workable solution to address the concern,” Busselman said.
Trich testing affects cow-calf operations more than dairymen, Busselman said, because dairies more often than not use artificial insemination to breed their cows. He said it places more responsibility on producers to ensure their herd is healthy for the sake of everyone’s herd.
“If you bought a new set of bulls, which is not inexpensive, and turn them out and bring them back in the next fall and you go through the testing process and find all your bulls have to go to market because they’ve been infected, it’s just not something you can economically maintain,” Busselman said. “You have a responsibility to make sure your problem doesn’t become somebody else’s.”
Testing is not necessary for all bulls, said Boyd Spratling, president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. It is required for bulls that have been identified as being “at risk” and neighboring bulls that may have come into contact with positive bulls.
Spratling said the requirements to testing “at-risk” bull populations was a compromise reached between those opposed to testing and those advocating testing every bull, every year.
“We needed some sort of mechanism to help those guys who were testing,” he said. The cost of testing is borne by producers and is a cost of doing business.
Spratling, who is also a veterinarian, said the reproductive tract of the bull is scraped and the culture is grown for about six days to look for the disease. Local veterinarians can conduct the test, but a state-certified lab must register the final results.
The disease does not live on the animals’ skin or in their meat and does not affect humans, Rink said, so they are considered safe to be slaughtered.
There was some opposition to the new regulations.
“Nevadans are pretty free spirited,” Rink said. “A lot of people simply don’t like to be told what to do with their animals. They felt it should be up to the owner and producer.”
In the long run, though, more testing could lead to fewer losses to cattle producers.
“If everybody can clean up and production goes up, it could significantly raise everyone’s income,” Spratling said.