Protect Against Broader Threat From Leptospira Hardjo-Bovis: Newer strain impacts full reproductive spectrum, from embryonic death to weak calves.
If reproductive efficiencies seem to be slipping in your beef operation, the underlying cause might be the result of leptospirosis. Veterinarians have known about various Leptospira species such as Leptospira pomona for quite some time. In the 1960’s another strain of Lepto was discovered in Louisiana. The newer and now more common type of the disease – Leptospira borgpetersenii hardjo-bovis (Lepto HB) – can impact a broader range of reproductive stages, often making it more difficult to diagnose.
“With Lepto pomona the most common clinical sign is mid- to late-season abortions, but Lepto HB can have an even greater impact such as early embryonic death, lower pregnancy rates, still births, abortions or even weakened calves,” explained Dr. John Davidson, senior associate director of beef cattle professional services for Boehringer Ingelheim (BI).
“The HB strain is more persistent in the reproductive system and, once exposed to it, an animal will likely remain infected until subsequent immunity develops or when treated with an effective antibiotic,” he said. “That’s why producers need to change their prevention strategies.”
Urine shedding is common with Lepto HB
Contact with the urine of an infected animal is the most common form of transmission, but it also can be transmitted through infected placenta or milk. Leptospira can also survive in the environment for months. A study conducted in six states representing a cross-section of climates and management practices found that Lepto HB was prevalent in 42 percent of cattle herds and was more likely to be found in warmer, wetter climates.1
Odds of the disease developing were also more than two times greater in operations where ponds and stock tanks were used as the main water source, since the pathogen can survive for extended periods in stagnant water. Leptospira outbreaks are most common in spring and summer.
“Clinical signs of Lepto HB are often mild and subtle, and the diagnosis requires more diagnostic effort, making this strain more difficult to identify than Lepto pomona. Confirming this zoonotic disease in your cattle requires working with a veterinarian to take urine and blood samples,” added Dr. Davidson.
Vaccination is key to prevention
To prevent the threat of the disease and increase the likelihood of successful pregnancies, cattle should ideally be vaccinated 20 to 30 days prior to breeding. “That allows enough time for the peak immune response. This is especially important for heifers as their lifetime production hinges on a successful first pregnancy,” explained Dr. Davidson.
He recommends using a combination cattle vaccine that’s labeled to prevent urinary shedding of Lepto HB. “A killed vaccine, such as Triangle® 10 HB, is safe for use in cattle 10 months of age and older, including pregnant cattle, regardless of previous vaccination history. Research has shown that it prevents urinary shedding, and that kidneys of vaccinated heifers that were challenged with pathogenic Lepto HB tested clear of the pathogen in eight weeks.”2
1Wikse SE, Rogers GM, et al. Herd prevalence and risk factors of Leptospira infection in beef cow/calf operations in the United States. Bov Pract 2007;41:15-23.
2Boehringer Ingelheim Study No. 2012229
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