Vibriosis in Dairy Cattle

In the dairy industry consistent reproduction of offspring is important when keeping a well-regulated profitable operation. Vibriosis is a venereal disease in beef and dairy cattle that can be the cause of abortion, delayed conception, and sterility for animals in your heard. Other side effects may include lower calf crop as well as milk yield, consequently lowering the quality of your operation.

This highly infectious disease may be transferred from bull-to-cow, through the natural selection processes or through artificial insemination due to contaminated semen. It may also be spread through multiple bulls being contained in the same area where riding behavior is triggered. However cow-to-cow transmission is highly unlikely but still possible under extreme circumstances. Post-transfer, the infection inhabits the female’s reproductive tract where it causes endometritis and salpingitis, other upper genital tract infections.

Once an animal is infected by the bacteria, it may go undetected for a long period of time before a diagnosis is determined (Payne 1970). Due to the absence of symptoms an animal may show while infected by this disease the only definite way to diagnose the issue is by measuring antibodies in the cows vaginal mucus of a cow who has been serviced many times and has not become pregnant or has aborted their fetus. An infected bull’s preputial washes can be tested as well to determine if the bull is a carrier that can possibly spread this disease (Disease:vibriosis 2011).

Conception rates in infected herds commonly plummet to around 50%, displaying the harmful outcome of the disease and the decimation of profits (Global 2011). One contaminated animal can be such a pit fall to an entire herd and operation that it may be the deciding factor in whether an operation succeeds or fails. Up to 11 % of heifers will show signs of permanent, long-term reproductive damage, or infertility (Garcia, MM, MD Eaglesome, CF Hawkins, and FC Alexander 2011) (Global 2011). Infertility in the dairy industry is considered one of the biggest ways to lose money quick. Servicing an infertile heifer not only wastes time, it wastes money. This heifer will have lower milk yield and will now not be able to calf until she has fully recovered. A contaminated bull on the other hand, will show no outward obvious signs of his infection. Bulls can be carriers, or distributors of infection to large quantities of cows and heifers over long periods of time in various locations without being detected (figure1). Depending on how much contact with other animals a bull has will control how fast vibrosis will be transferred and to how great of an extent.

A bull with impressive bloodlines and good genetics that is well publicized may be bread to multiple heifers in various locations, spreading the infection like wildfire throughout herds. A bull on a family farm can also do a great deal of damage to a herd, but will most likely be on a smaller scale.
Cows are able to develop immunity to this disease; it will come into effect after five months of becoming infected. A cow’s immunity to vibriosis will last approximately twelve months (Disease:vibriosis 2011). After twelve months a cow may become re-infected if not treated with precautionary measures such as screening animals coming in and out of the farm and who have been effectively vaccinated for contagious diseases.
Many owners and managers on successful livestock operations choose to vaccinate their animals regularly. As these animals are investments in the future of your operation and are most peoples livelihood. Vaccinations are a form of insurance to an operation. Vaccinations are antibodies that can insure the health and well being of your animal when concerning various infectious diseases and viruses. It may cost more money in the short term, but in retrospect it will pay for itself in long-term profit. When it comes to breeding, buying, selling and transporting having health and vaccination records are critical in many situations. Many times you must have vaccination records to cross state border, fair grounds, auctions or sale etc. As many diseases can be highly contagious, it doesn’t take much to cross-contaminate herds. Knowing that your animals are safe and healthy also gives you piece of mind.
Successful business practices also suggest that taking pride in your operation and ensuring that you have a quality reputation will most likely ensure a lucrative business. If you take care of your animals they will take care of you. It will not go unnoticed and investors will be more likely to support you. Vaccinating regularly will help maintain quality livestock that you can be proud of.

The prominent vaccination on the market in the prevention of vibriosis is Vibrovax. Vibrovax , a vaccination that can be used on bulls, cows, and heifers to prevent vibriosis and its harmful effects on bovine, is the choice antibiotic for the majority of cattle operations. “A trial conducted in an infected North Queensland beef herd showed that vaccination of heifers resulted in an improved pregnancy rate from 55% to 76%. A further trial comparing the vaccination of bulls only with the vaccination of both bulls and heifers demonstrated an increased pregnancy rate from 61% to 85%.”(Vibromax 2011)
The decline in pregnancy rates in cattle that have not been vaccinated is most likely associated with the damage inflicted on the female bovine’s reproductive tract causing infertility throughout the herd.

Keeping your animals on a regulated vaccination plan is just as important as vaccinating your animals in the first place. Consistency is efficiency when it comes to keeping your animals regulated. Records will help you keep track of animals that have been vaccinated with the dates they were vaccinated. If you vaccinate your animals and don’t keep track of the dates you could be double dosing them, in turn wasting more money. You could also not be giving them the amount of medication they need to fight of the disease if they come in contact with a contaminated animal, whether it is on the farm, during breeding, or in transport. This is also a waste of money because now you have spent money on a vaccination that is ineffective. On a small scale it may not seem like that big of a loss but when you consider the well being of an entire herd or an operation, one contaminated animal can become devastating quite rapidly.

It may not always necessary to vaccinate your older cows with Vibromax annually. Unless you have an outbreak of the disease in your herd it is not considered an efficient use of the medication to vaccinate older cows. It is highly advised that one should vaccinate their bulls and heifers every year to prevent infection (Vibromax 2011). Older bulls tend to suffer much more severely from vibriosis than younger bulls under the age of five years old. The younger bulls will be able to make a full recover much quicker and the effects will less likely be permanent than if it was an older animal.

“Vibriosis causes significant reproductive losses especially in heifers. If the entire herd is infected the losses can be even more devastating. This table (figure4) can help calculate the financial benefit of implementing a Vibrovax vaccination program.”(Vibromax1)

There are many programs that may work in your herd. Many programs are similar, but can be slightly different. It is best to find a program that is consistent that works for your operation so that it can function as an efficient organized unit.

Through personal experience I have realized the dairy industry is mostly revolves around timing and numbers. When you have multiple animals that tend to just be identified by a number or an ear tag, it is extremely easy to confuse them. The more meticulous records you keep the easier you will be able to function in your industry. You will always be one step ahead of the competition that does not take consistent notes of their animals. It may also be the difference between life and death under certain circumstances. When giving medications it can be critical that you keep track of animals that have and have not received them. Faltering to organize or process this information can be fatal to a bull, cow, heifer, or calf.

Livestock owners see their animals as potential profit; it is how they can afford to keep their operations running and support themselves and their families. Ensuring your animals health will increase your profit margin in vast quantities. This previous statement is especially valid in cases concerning dairy cattle.

Cattle are easily stressed mammals and can easily become unhealthy. They are consistently being moved, milked, bought, sold and bred. Vibriosis is a venereal disease that often shows up in high stress situations such as breeding and transporting, making it even easier to contract. Simple prevention precautions can protect your operation as well as your animal’s reproduction tract from being taken over and becoming infertile permanently. It is the responsibility of the operation owner to overlook procedures that can so drastically affect the well being of the business as well as assets.

Works Cited

"Disease:vibriosis." Welcome to the Department of Animal Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. .

Garcia, MM, MD Eaglesome, CF Hawkins, and FC Alexander. "Campylobacteriosis in Jamaican Cattle." N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2011. .

Global. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. .

Payne, W. J. A. Cattle Production in the Tropics,. London: Longman, 1970. Print.

"Vibrovax." Rural Buying Service Pty Ltd - We Retail the Products on This Website, Not Manufacture Them. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. .