Dangers of Leptospirosis

Dangers of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is now widespread in UK cattle herds. Recent surveys found it in 79% of dairy herds and 63% of beef herds.
So what is Leptospirosis and how do herds become infected?

Lepto Bacteria

Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, Leptospira interrogans, a Gram-negative spirochete (pictured above), and can cause a variety of serious problems such as abortions, infertility, weak calves, retained cleansings and milk drop. As well as this Leptospirosis will also cause a severe flu like illness in humans. A herdsman recently died in New Zealand from the disease!

How do Herds become infected?
The following factors increase the risk of herds becoming infected:

  • Buying in infected stock
  • Co-grazing with sheep
  • Drinking from natural watercourses
  • From bulls

What can be done?
Leptospirosis can be readily diagnosed by bulk milk screening of dairy herds and blood tests for beef herds. These lab tests are available and we would urge you to take advantage of them to find out your herd status before problems develop any further that can lead to costly fertility losses.
If Leptospirosis is diagnosed then vaccination provides good control of the disease.
A trial was conducted in three dairy herds where Leptospirosis had been diagnosed as a cause of fertility problems. Half of the herd were vaccinated  with a Leptospira vaccine and the other half left unvaccinated. The following graph illustrates the benefits of vaccination.

Lepto Graph

Related SEV Branch