Record-breaking beef prices only make the problem worse. Besides being a herd health and biosecurity nightmare, trichomoniasis is costing producers missed dollars across the country. In states like Arkansas, emergency bull testing requirements were passed this summer due to outbreaks. In Colorado, the Board of Animal Health is reminding producers of the importance of testing because of seven trich-positive areas in that state. The list of affected states could go on. Trich is becoming more prevalent and costly every day, and you simply can’t ignore it anymore. 

The infection begins with wandering cattle

Cows that interact with trichomoniasis-infected bulls — whether yours or those from a neighboring herd — run a strong risk of becoming infected themselves. Unlike cows, infected bulls show no symptoms of the disease and are hard to identify without testing.

When cows breed with an infected bull, the organism that causes trichomoniasis, Tritrichomonas foetus, attaches itself to the vaginal wall. This environment is perfect for T. foetus, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5 and thick walls for easy attachment. Once they’re attached, the organisms will colonize and spread throughout the uterus and oviducts, causing the uterus to have an inflammatory response.

Trich causes big problems

It is likely that the cow will still conceive after breeding with the infected bull. The infection she contracts, however, will ultimately lead to embryonic death or abortion, due to the inflammatory response of the uterus.

In some cases, the inflammatory response will occur within the first 18 days after breeding. When this happens, cows usually return to heat in their next 21-day cycle. Those cows returning to heat can have the ability to infect any bull that breeds her until she clears the uterus of infection, which can take up to 80 days. In most situations, embryonic death will occur between 50 and 60 days post breeding. When this happens, there may be an abortion of a small fetus or a pyometra formation (a pus-filled uterus). In very rare cases, it may take anywhere from seven to eight months for the infection to result in an inflammatory response and, ultimately, abortion.

Making a decision

When you pregnancy-check your cows and find that one is open, you will have a decision to make. Do you breed her again or cull her? It takes anywhere from two to four months for the trichomoniasis infection to clear her system, which may affect any rebreeding and could pose a risk to healthy herd bulls. Beyond that, the cow will have a lighter calf due to late breeding, and will most likely calve later than the rest of the herd for her entire lifetime.