Ag department: Test beef, dairy bulls

The state Department of Agriculture’s Animal Industry Division has ordered all beef and dairy bulls to be tested for bovine trichomoniasis prior to entry into and before movement between herds within the state, the department said.

According the Agriculture Department, the highly contagious reproductive disease an cause significant production loss and economic harm to herds, but it does not affect humans or the safety of beef.

Jason Moniz, the department’s Livestock Disease Control Branch manager and veterinarian, said infected herds have been reported only on the Big Island and Oahu, with none found on Maui.

However, the state has ordered all bulls to be tested for the disease before being sold, acquired or moved. In addition, bulls one year or older must produce a negative test result within 30 days of arrival into the state, and bulls moving within the state must be tested if they are two years or older.

Testing costs about $25 to $30 for each bull and can be administered by veterinarians.

“We’re fortunate it hasn’t affected us here yet,” said Makawao resident Alex Franco, president of the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council. “But we’re trying to take the necessary precautions, which is pretty much the testing and limiting the contact between herds.”

Moniz and Franco emphasized that the disease does not affect beef quality, considering the infection is found on parts of the bull and cow that are discarded after they’re slaughtered.

“Where it causes problems is short-term abortion where the fetus will die inside the cow,” Franco said. “The disease impacts the economics of producing cattle and could cause 60 percent of your heard to abort. It’s pretty devastating once it gets into your herd, so the quarantine is to minimize that.”

Greg Friel, livestock manager at Haleakala Ranch, said that the ranch rears its bulls from within herds on its property or through artificial insemination to avoid the disease.

“The biggest thing from (trichomoniasis) is you get a really poor pool of offspring,” he said. “And once the bull gets it, you get it for life because there aren’t any good treatments to remove it, so you have to send it to market.”

Unlike bulls, though, cows can recover from the disease and rid their body of the infection, he said.

Although the department has not identified the origin of the disease, Friel said he believes it was imported from another state, with Moniz adding that it might have traveled through a bull from California.

The disease was first detected in 2011 from bulls in the Big Island’s Kau district. That discovery triggered testing of exposed herds, slaughter surveillance testing and testing by private veterinarians from 2011 to 2012, the Agriculture Department said.

The state found 10 infected herds – nine on the Big Island (Kau, North Hilo and Kohala districts) and one on Oahu (Makakilo). All infected herds had contact with the Kau- and Kohala-infected herds, state officials said.

The state reported that one herd has been released from quarantine, with four others still under evaluation after achieving one round of negative testing on all bulls. The four remaining herds have continued to test positive and are continuing with test programs.