OMAHA, Neb. — Brent Tanner learned the lesson of buyer beware the hard way when trichomoniasis was found on his Utah ranch 35 years ago.
He had never heard of the venereal disease until a new bull he bought from a reputable purebred breeder was turned loose with 20 heifers.
He got the bad news when it came time for pregnancy checking.
“Over half of them came up open,” he said in an interview during a special meeting on trichomoniasis held in Omaha during the National Institute of Animal Agriculture convention April 1-4.
He contacted the breeder and had the bull semen checked. At the same time, his veterinarian checked for trichomoniasis.
“We didn’t know trich existed. We had never heard of it before. Our vet was smart enough to look for all kinds of things,” he said.
The breeder told him the two-year-old was a virgin but later ad-mitted it was used as a yearling on a few cows.
“Fortunately he hadn’t been out with our general herd,” Tanner said.
He runs 1,000 cows and 100 bulls, which are turned out into large public grazing areas. It could have been a disaster for his herd and other producers using the pasture.
The bull was destroyed, and Tanner has become a cautious bull buyer who insists on testing and does not believe claims about previous sexual experience.
“I won’t purchase a bull that hasn’t been tested. When they talk about certifying a virgin bull, they will never sell one to me,” he said.
The Utah Cattlemen’s Association started a voluntary testing program, which requires bulls be tested before they can enter a common breeding pasture.
Bulls that test negative wear a colour coded dangle ear tag. They must have a health certificate if the tag is missing.
“In our valley we have been clean for years. In our state we still have incidences of trich, even though we have been testing longer than most of the states,” he said.
Tanner said on his ranch open cows are culled and he won’t try re-breeding when bulls may be spreading the infection.
“This year-round calving thing is just perpetuating these diseases,” he said.
“Let’s get into a 90 to 120 day calving period because there is something good to be said about pulling those bulls out of the herd.”
Tanner buys bulls from purebred breeders or consignment sales and does not buy animals from public auctions or animals that may have been used before unless they have been tested.
“If I am going to lose 50 percent of my profit in a year, I am going to be a bit picky,” he said.
The regulations surrounding trichomoniasis vary from state to state in the U.S.
Texas receives breeding cattle from out of state, as well as from Canada and Mexico. It started a state-wide trichomoniasis program in 2010.
“There are no international entry requirements for trich, so we had to put a state rule in there and said a breeding animal has to be tested shortly after arrival,” said state veterinarian Dee Ellis.
It is listed as a reportable disease in Texas. Vets must be educated about the disease and certified to collect samples.
“Our premise is a control program, not an eradication program,” Ellis said.
“Maybe in 20 years it will be an eradication program with technology changes.”
Kansas also made trichomoniasis a reportable disease, which in-cludes veterinarian training, as well as herd biosecurity plans, said Bill Brown, the state’s animal health commissioner.
Kansas has tracked prevalence since 2011, and last year found 25 positive herds.
Seed stock producers were asked to provide herd management plans, and they are allowed to sell virgin bulls up to the age of 24 months without testing.
Kansas also added a female component to regulate interstate movement of cows.
Wyoming has also found a high incidence of the disease in the southwestern part of the state, so it stepped up testing requirements.
Common grazing areas are a major issue.
Bulls going into public or private grazing leases have to be tested because trichomoniasis is a management disease, said Colorado state veterinarian Carl Heckendorf.
Colorado relies on state regulators and brand inspectors to check for negative trich tests. He is not sure about certified-free herds.
“Trich certified-free herds may exist but did not work if the neighbour’s bull jumped the fence,” he said. “You still should trich test your bulls every year to be on top of things.”
Dealing with females is also important, although most states pay less attention because there are too many of them to make testing feasible.