To date, trichomonaisis has not been found in Illinois. Still, that doesn't mean beef producers aren't stressing about the possibility of it crossing state lines.
Buzz Iliff, a Wyoming, Ill. veterinarian, says this venereal disease has caused major breeding disruptions in Nebraska and Colorado. When it began to move east, many states passed clauses requiring intensive testing on mature bulls.
"With the drought in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico, a lot of these cows are moving back east looking for pasture," Iliff explains. "There is a potential for this to make its way into border states."
Teresa Steckler, University of Illinois beef specialist, says Missouri has passed a law that requires mature bulls to be tested for the venereal disease if they cross state lines.
Trichomonaisis resides primarily in the foreskin of the infected bull. When transferred to a cow, the result is typically an early abortion, followed by a two to three month recovery period for the cow. In some instances, the cow may carry the disease longer. It is typically not passed onto future generations. The bull continues to carry the disease.
Iliff says there is a vaccine available. However, it is costly and is only 80% to 85% effective. Previously, a group of medicinal compounds called diamatrozoles would have effectively treated this condition. However, they have been banned since the late 1980s, Iliff adds.
As a result, there is no effective cure for infected bulls. But, infected bulls can be harvested as there is no risk in passing the disease onto humans through meat consumption.
Trichomonaisis testing methods
To keep this disease out of Illinois, vigilant testing is a must. Gene Niles, director of the Illinois Animal Disease Laboratory, says two different tests can be conducted. It's important to understand the difference between the two, he adds.
The first is a typical microscopic analysis from a cultured sample. Scientists look at the sample daily, for up to six days to see if the disease presents itself. However, if the disease isn't present in the sample, it doesn't necessarily mean the bull is clear.
The microscopic analysis's effectiveness hinges on whether the sample was taken and transported correctly. In the simplest terms, the microscopic analysis relies on the farmer's ability to effectively capture a living trichomonaisis organism and get it to the lab.
Niles says the bull's prepuce must be swabbed correctly and deposited in the laboratory's accompanying transport media. The sample should be kept at room temperature, as cooling it could kill the trichomonaisis organism.
Even if the first test is negative, many state guidelines require a minimum of two, sometimes three, microscopic analysis test to confirm the presence or absence of trichomonaisis. The total cost for each test is approximately $20.
The second method is a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test. This test is more expensive, but must only be done once, Niles explains. A PCR test can detect the presence of trichomonaisis even if the organism perished in transport.