Photo courtesy USDA/ Michael Macneil
Texas bulls must be certified-virgin or undergo a cattle trichomoniasis test when changing ownership.
Starting in 2010, Texas bulls that undergo a change of ownership (except to slaughter) must be either certified as a virgin bull or be tested first for cattle trichomoniasis, a protozoal disease that can cause cows to abort very early in pregnancy. Infected bulls carry the microscopic organism that causes cattle trichomoniasis without any signs and can transmit it to cows during breeding.
“There is no effective treatment for bulls, and once infected, they can continue to spread trichomoniasis when they breed,” said Dee Ellis, DVM, Texas’ state veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission, the state’s livestock- and poultry-health regulatory agency. “Infected cows may clear the infection, but only if they are given rest from breeding for 120 to 150 days—an expensive option, as a calf crop will be missed. A vaccine also is available to help in the management of infected cows, but it will not prevent infection.”
Texas’ ranching, marketing and veterinary industries worked with the TAHC to develop effective regulations to control cattle trichonomiasis. According to Ellis, more than 600 of Texas’ veterinarians have been certified to test for the infection.
Ellis said the new regulations will apply to bulls being sold, traded, leased or undergoing any change of ownership (except for slaughter) in Texas. The regulations include three basic steps:
- 1. Identify the bull. Identification is essential for matching animals with virgin bull certificates or test documents. One form of identification is needed, and it may be an official USDA ear tag, breed registry brand or tattoo, an 840 flap, bangle or an 840 radio frequency identification device. If the bull originated from outside Texas, it may have that state’s official cattle trichomoniasis ear tag.
2. Certify virgin bulls. A breeder can certify the bull as a virgin if the bull was raised away from cows after weaning and is 24 months of age or younger. A Texas-origin bull’s virgin status may be extended to 30 months if the virgin certificate is signed by the breeder’s accredited veterinarian. Virgin bulls are not required to have a cattle trichomoniasis test prior to change of ownership.
3. Test older or non-virgin bulls. Bulls older than 30 months or bulls that were maintained with cows after weaning must have a negative cattle trichomoniasis test within 30 days prior to change of ownership. A certified, accredited veterinarian must collect the sample for testing at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. While awaiting test results, which usually take about a week, the bulls must be kept away from cows. Upon receipt of the negative test results, the bull is ready for change of ownership.
“Breeding bulls that haven’t been certified as virgins or tested are considered to be slaughter-only bulls,” said Dr. Ellis. “In some cases, however, buyers may want an untested bull, although they may be buying trouble. We have provisions under the regulations for untested bulls to be identified and moved under a TAHC-issued hold order and movement permit. The animal must be isolated from female cattle, and cannot be moved until it is tested within 30 days of purchase at the owner’s expense.”
Texas accepts two cattle trichomoniasis tests: the real time polymerase chain reaction test or a series of three culture tests. These tests are the national standard. Bulls that test positive may undergo confirmation testing if the owner or accredited veterinarian makes a request within five days of the results.
Because there is no effective treatment for cattle trichomoniasis, infected bulls in Texas must go to slaughter within 30 days of confirmation. The remaining bulls in a herd will be isolated from female cattle until they undergo two consecutive negative RT-PCR tests, each conducted at least seven days apart, or three consecutive negative culture tests, with each of the tests conducted at least seven days apart. When they are confirmed negative for cattle trichomoniasis, the bulls are free to be moved or to be commingled with cows.
“If you are obtaining a breeding bull, make sure the animal has been certified as a virgin or was tested—for your herd’s sake,” Ellis said. “We will be reviewing the regulations on a yearly basis with an industry working group, to ensure that the rules remain timely and effective.”
Texas’ cattle trichomoniasis entry requirements for breeding bulls is similar to intrastate regulations, but allows out-of-state bulls to be certified as virgins only until 24 months of age. Exhibition or competition bulls may enter Texas without a trichomoniasis test, but must be kept away from female cattle. The TAHC must be contacted in advance of entry for a waiver of the test requirement to be issued on exhibition bulls.