After tackling the issue on low fertility being a concern and an economic loss for the Namibian cattle farmers, one reader commented that he has been facing abortion in his cattle herd which is devastating.
Fortunately, he managed to collect the right samples and the disease was diagnosed as Campylobacteriosis. The farmer is puzzled by the disease and needs clarification, which in turn will also help our readers on how to deal with this disease. Campylobacteriosis is commonly known as Vibriosis and causes devastating economical losses to farmers in many parts of Namibia. The disease is caused by a bacteria Campylobacter (Vibrio) fetus subspecies venerialis.
Campylobacter” is a fancy name that is derived from Greek word for “Curve rod” because of curved or spiral shape morphology of bacteria. Vibriosis is a true venereal disease (sexually transmitted) that is transmitted between animals while mating. It means that if your cow was infected, it will infect a new bull and this bull will take the infection to another cow. Thus, if the infection occurs for the first time in your herd, there might be a history of new animals that you brought onto your farm. The infection can also spread from infected bulls in semen used for artificial insemination. What the farmer will mainly notice is abortion usually between 5 and 7 months of pregnancy or occasionally longer in his herd.
In some cases there is early embryonic death whereby the embryo dies early on after conception (about 10 days) and the farmer might not even know that the cow was pregnant in the first place. But he might notice that the particular cow has some cloudy dirty discharges from the vulva and it comes back on heat. In addition, infected cows might also repeatedly come on heat without getting pregnant. Some cows might show irregular and abnormally long intervals between heats. The repeated failure to fall pregnant and early embryonic death can be due to the infection in the uterus (endometritis).
In some cases the endometritis causes severe damage that the cow remains infertile for the rest of her life. For proper diagnoses at the laboratory, wrap aborted fetus and after birth (placenta) in a plastic or any waterproof container and refrigerate at +4C or keep in a cool place, but do not freeze. This can be taken to your nearest veterinary office or straight to the Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) in Windhoek. However, definite confirmation of infection is made by culturing the organism from the prepuce of the bull. Thus, you need a trained veterinary personnel to do a sheath scraping/washing from the bull and collect the appropriate samples. For female cows, vaginal washings can also be submitted for testing.
On confirmation of Vibriosis, for infected cows, identify aborting as well as infertile ones and take them away from the rest of the herd. In fact, from my experience, my advice is to just get rid of any aborted cow for the next 3 three years because there is no specific treatment for this disease that works effectively. The positive bull should also be rather sacrificed because options for its control or infection elimination are limited. Infected bulls may have no obvious signs of infection.
In the bull, the bacteria lives in the folds and crevices of the prepuce and thus the bull might be infectious for life. This is why it is strongly advised to ensure that the bull you are introducing in your herd has been tested and certified by a veterinarian paying more attention on the venereal diseases. In ideal situations, it is also better to reduce close contact of your animals with other animals from another farm, but unfortunately this is almost impossible in our villages where there are no proper boundaries and fencing.
In fact, in the villages we tend to rely on our neighbor’s bull sneaking in into our herds to mount the cows, but who knows if that “rented’ bull is not carrying a venereal disease? Thus, I can’t stress enough that replacement bulls, if not virgins, should be subjected to a thorough sheath washing before allowing them with your cows.
As a general rule for abortion cases, take care to always remove aborted materials by burying or burning it immediately. This will reduce the spread of the infection as well. And always make it a yearly management program to test your bulls before the breeding season in order to diagnose the presence of any venereal diseases including Campylobacteriosis. Garamushe! Dr. Baby Kaurivi Katunahange “The Village Vet” MVet, BVSc, BSc, Lecturing Vet