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Economics of Trichomoniasis

The cost of not knowing your herd is infected outweighs the cost for testing.

RUIDOSO, NEW MEXICO (Aug. 30, 2018) — “We are going to talk about the economics of trichomoniasis. Nobody get up and leave please,” joked John Wenzel, New Mexico State University Extension veterinarian, about the disease for which many producers forego testing despite the high risk of its economic impact.

“This is an expensive disease, from the survey alone producers saw $221,000 in economic impact,”said John Wenzel.

On average, the test itself costs $46 per bull. However, the high costs of the test come from holding bulls in a pen, feeding them while waiting for the test results and potentially culling those testing positive for trichomoniasis, Wenzel noted.

“The common argument is that it’s too expensive to test,” Wenzel added. “Yes, it is a lot of money, but it is nothing compared to what it will cost if the bulls have it and you don’t know about it.”

Wenzel shared that New Mexico ranchers trying to clean up trich reported paying on average an additional $75,000 for new bulls to replace those they had to cull. This was above their normal cost of bull replacements.

“This is an expensive disease, from the survey alone producers saw $221,000 in economic impact,” Wenzel said.

In 2016, 84 ranchers were under quarantine in the state of New Mexico. That number was reduced to just 42 in 2017. The difference was found in the efforts put forth by producers.

“This is not a disease that affects just one ranch, it is an area disease,” said Wenzel. “In my experience, it is not hard to clean up when everyone in the area works hard.”

To fully understand the economic impact of trichomoniasis in the state, Wenzel distributed a survey to operations dealing with it in the past or present. The average-size operation affected managed 500 head of cattle and typically tried to raise replacement heifers instead of buying them.

The economics of trichomoniasis
Cost of trich test: $46.21 per bull

Add'l feed, labor: $155.83 per bull

Add'l costs reported Avg. Range
Add'l equipment $420 $0-$4,000
Add'l fencing $3,043 $1,800-$5,000
Cost of add'l bulls $75,107 $3,750-$200,000
Add'l freight, feed, holding, lost value $37,786 $2,000-$200,000
Overall economic impact $221,667 $30,000-$1 million

“Both calf crop and cow conception rates took pretty big hits when trichomoniasis was present. They went from about 90% to 64%,” Wenzel explained as he also trenched into culling rates, taking 20% of the cow herd and almost half of the bull battery of the surveyed operations.

The survey revealed that negative effects on conception and culling rates led to an average loss of $400 per cow. The total impact in just one year for the entire state hovered around $7 million. That just considered quarantined ranches, not the ones unknowingly operating with trichomoniasis in their herds.

“Bottom line, it is a hard argument for me to buy into that people can’t afford to test for it,” Wenzel said. “How can you afford not to test for it?”

Wenzel presented the scenario where someone backed a truck up to a pen and started stealing calves. He asked how this is any different than the effect trichomoniasis has on a herd.

“Those calves lost by trichomoniasis are no different than someone stealing them,” Wenzel continued. “There are a lot of factors out of our hands when it comes to this disease, but there are plenty of measures producers can do to control it.”

An avid spokesman for testing, Wenzel said ranches should test and pull bulls as a means to control trichomoniasis. The key to control is biosecurity, even increasing it for the sake of safety could save significant losses from trichomoniasis and other disease outbreaks.

“Other diseases seem to be snapshots in time, but trich is the gift that just keeps on giving,” Wenzel explained. “It will stay with you until you fix it, where other diseases can be fixed by the animals themselves.”

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease between both bulls and cows. However, in cows it is inside the uterus and causes a loss of pregnancy. While in the bull, it is on the surface of the reproductive system.

“Cows that get it can clean themselves up from it if they have enough sexual rest, but you don’t know it’s there until you look,” Wenzel said.

Unfortunately for bulls, there is no way to cure them of this disease, so the only way to clean up an area is to cull them. Wenzel stressed that trichomoniasis is not something limited to certain areas, it is a widespread disease that can only be found through testing.

For details on Wenzel’s presentation — including the proceedings, PowerPoint and video of his presentation — visit the Newsroom at www.appliedreprostrategies.com.

For a recent Angus Journal article discussing trichomoniasis testing, click here.

Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Media. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact the Angus Media editorial team at 816-383-5200.