Cattle disease hitting herds, state vet says

Veterinarians for the Colorado Department of Agriculture issued a warning to ranchers Thursday, calling on them to test their cattle for a deadly infection that could devastate herds.

State Veterinarian Keith Roehr said 10 cases of bovine trichomaniasis have been found in seven counties in the San Luis Valley and southeastern Colorado. The infection is a venereal disease that can cause cows to abort their calves and make them infertile.

Roehr said that while the cases are only slightly higher than last year’s infections, when nine bulls in nine counties around the state tested positive for the illness, it shows that ranchers must be vigilant in fighting the disease.

“This (decrease) shows that the livestock industry and the (department’s) mitigation efforts have been working,” Roehr said. “But this doesn’t mean ranchers should decrease their testing rates. It is important to remember that his infection does not respect county lines.”

State veterinarians found 32 cases of the infection in 13 counties in 2007, 43 in 17 counties in 2008 and 16 in nine counties in 2009.

While this year’s confirmed cases don’t directly threaten Western Slope herds, it does serve as a wake-up call to area ranchers, said Frank Daley, a Garfield County rancher and member of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association board of directors.

Daley said ranchers on the Western Slope long have dealt with the disease. The infection was found in a number of animals in Mesa and Garfield counties in 2009 and again in Garfield County the following year.

“Most people around here test their bulls for trichomaniasis each fall after the breeding season,” Daley said. “As long as everybody does that, it keeps it under control. Hopefully, people will continue to test and not become apathetic when it hasn’t been around for awhile.”

Daley said when a bull or cow is infected, the only thing a rancher can do is sell it to slaughter. But if a rancher doesn’t test all cattle regularly, it can spread, devastating a ranching operation because any affected animal has to be sold off, he said.

Daley said the test costs about $25 per animal.

Roehr said trichomaniasis causes fertility problems, including embryonic death or abortion of a calf.

The organism doesn’t taint slaughtered meat, he said.


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