Unique resources and management in each state prohibits one-size-fits-all trich regulations between them, but there is a growing sentiment among producers and veterinarians that there needs to be more harmonization of interstate regulations where possible, at least regionally.

Last summer, Dr. Brown says health officials in the western states, including Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma identified regulatory components for which they believe consensus can be achieved: the official test (PCR or culture) prior to entry, whether or not PCR samples can be pooled, the duration of negative test validity and the minimum age for testing virgin bulls.

For the record, those interviewed for this story favor PCR testing because of the reduced cost and needing to put cattle though the chute once rather than the three times required of culture tests.

“States need to come to agreement on adopting only the best diagnostic testing technology available, which I believe is quantitative PCR using chemical lysis and internal controls,” Dr. VanBoening says. “We need our diagnostic labs to use these work flow procedures to ensure we’re getting back the very best tests results possible. Most importantly, we need to keep increasing veterinarian and producer awareness about the economic impact of trich with the goal of keeping everyone vigilant in managing this disease.”

Last fall, the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) established a trich subcommittee. That committee is co-chaired by Dr. Heckendorf and Bud Dinges, DVM, clinical assistant professor with the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“We hope to provide guidance for the industry and cause some harmonization from the testing standpoint and regulatory rules to help in epidemiology and tracking down where it came from,” Dr. Heckendorf says. He also mentions the possibility of developing recommended protocols for sample collection, preparation and shipping.

Incidentally, that epidemiological approach helped Kansas develop its regulations.

When the initial Kansas trich regulation was enacted, Dr. Brown explains, “We began accumulating data as to the incidence and prevalence of the disease in the state. We obtained this data through a comprehensive survey of an identified positive trich herd. The herd owner and herd veterinarian were interviewed in three areas: bull, cow and management program of the positive herd. The accumulated data demonstrated the number of positive herds across the state (counties) and the epidemiological factors that were common to these herds. Results from the data obtained demonstrated the scope and prevalence of the disease across the state. The livestock community, as a result, wanted to address the trich issue with additional requirements.”

What followed was an 18-month process that included 30 industry meetings and input from more than 2,200 producers, veterinarians and industry professionals.

Where the initial regulation considered only bulls imported to the state, the final regulation addresses the change of ownership of bulls within Kansas and import requirements for both bulls and females.

Revised trich regulations implemented in Kansas last October include requiring veterinarians to be certified to test for trich; 14 days of sexual rest for bulls, prior to testing; and recognition of real-time PCR as the only official diagnostic test accepted in the state. Any bull identified to be trich positive must be slaughtered.

“Having the USAHA subcommittee will keep the conversation going in a venue in which state animal health officials participate,” Dr. Simmons explains.

In fact, a Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards will be held April 3 in Omaha, NE, hosted by USAHA and the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.

In the summer of 2012, the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association (NC) proposed a trich directive to NCBA, which was subsequently approved. Dr. VanBoening is the current NC animal health committee chairman.

According to Dr. Simmons, the directive instructs NCBA staff to work with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to create a pathway of harmonization for trich programs between states for the interstate movement of cattle.

At a meeting hosted by Life Technologies Corporation (a maker of PCR tests for trich) last fall, Dr. Simmons explained, “Harmonized state trich regulations for the interstate movement of cattle would facilitate cattle movement at the speed of commerce. Well-defined, thoughtful and mutually accepted testing procedures for trich between adjoining states could eliminate redundant testing procedures and reduce the danger to animals and handlers from repeated or unnecessary testing.”

Dr. Simmons is quick to point out none of these efforts are aimed at creating a federal trich program. She also stresses veterinarians can play an integral role both in trich control and in the harmonization of regulations between states.

“States can review their current regulations, looking to see if their state’s risk assessment is the same as when regulations were developed and whether they can be made more harmonious with the regulations of states around them without jeopardizing their own in-state control,” Dr. Simmons explains. “Increased communication will also allow states contemplating development of trich regulations to be led more by science than by the precautionary principle.”

“There has been more progress in the last six months because of the number of organizations involved,” Dr. VanBoening says.

The same can be said of the number of producers and veterinarians.

Dr. Dinges stresses that Texas’ trich regulations were driven by producers. Texas began allowing up to five samples for PCR testing two years ago. “It cuts down the cost for producers significantly,” he explains.

Likewise, Dr. Brown emphasizes that revising the Kansas trich regulations came at the behest of producers and veterinarians who provided feedback throughout the rulemaking process.

Adding some detail to the opportunity available to all veterinarians on all regulatory issues, Dr. VanBoening says, “An easy way to get involved is to talk with the state veterinarian or state VMAs (veterinary medical association) about how the rules and regulations affect you. Several state cattlemen groups, as well as NCBA, are active in finding common ground amongst states regarding trich. It’s really up to the individual veterinarian how involved they want to be.”       

“There won’t be an immediate change, but a progressive one,” Dr. Simmons says.

That’s the same thing Dr. Brown tells folks asking when the trich program in Kansas will make a difference, when fewer rather than more herds will be infected year-to-year.