Black: My Introduction to Trichomoniasis Foetus
I was the veterinarian for a livestock company in the northwest. We had 10,000 cows on six ranches in five states with a progressive, well-managed cow/calf operation. The year was 1976.
In October I preg-tested our cows in Owyhee County, Idaho. The conception rate was 92 percent.
Albert managed that set of 2,000 cows and he was concerned … it should have been 94 percent. We discussed it. I thought 92 percent was pretty good and he conceded the range was worse than last year. I made no effort to find a cause.
The next fall we worked the cattle again and the conception was down to 90 percent. Albert had been right. I learned a lesson and set about seeking an answer. I must say that infertility and abortion in big herds is very difficult to confirm. I went through the testable diseases: vibrio, lepto, IBR, poison plants, selenium, foothill abortion, metabolic disorders and finally Trichamoniasis.
It was a wild longshot! I had never diagnosed it, nor had I ever heard of anyone who did. But, I went through the collection procedure on 12 head of Albert’s bulls. I had a small laboratory and was good at parasitology in vet school. There, under my microscope, swimming across the petri dish, was a one-celled protozoan with flagellae breast-stroking itself across my screen!
I examined all of the dishes several times and found it in two more bull samples. Over the next month, I called several authorities, professors, state veterinarians and recommended cow vets. To a man, each told me it didn’t exist anymore, it had been eradicated, my sample was a rumen contaminant, it hadn’t been seen since the 30s.
To humor me, my parasitology professor offered to send me some Diamond media to send back samples. I did. He was stunned! It was like I had struck oil or won the Super Bowl! After the discovery smoke had cleared, I set out to find a cure. The old vet books said Trich is related to the protozoan that causes Blackhead in turkeys.
Let me condense the next several months: I diagnosed Trich at EVERY ranch — positive bulls were culled — all others were treated individually, orally with a 16 ounce dosing syringe — black bucket, caught, haltered, head pulled up with a 10-foot A frame with block and tackle, and tied it to my rear bumper for five days in a row.
Sarcastic remark: It really got fun by the third day.
I put on meetings for the neighbors, the local vets, the state cattlemen; I became a minor authority. The lesson I learned was to pay attention to Albert. I read articles nowadays discussing the control, prevention and treatment of Trich.
To me, it seemed a monumental task, but the hard way was the only way. I remember a call from a cattleman in Las Vegas, Nev. whose herd had been diagnosed positive. He was griping about having to treat his bulls, so much work, what a pain, is there any other way. … He went on and on.
Finally I said, “Just quit yer cryin’, bite the bullet and man-up for goodness sake!”
He said, “You don’t understand … my bulls are Longhorns!” ❖