Campylobacter infection causes a venereal disease in cattle, previously known as vibriosis. (Not the same organism that commonly causes campylobacteriosis diarrhoea in people).
What to look for
- Cow infertility
- Large number of naturally mated animals return to service at variable intervals after mating
- Occasionally see abortions of foetuses after 2 to 5 months of pregnancy
A bacterial infection (Campylobacter fetus). C. fetus infects the penis and prepuce of bulls and the reproductive tract of cows.
Animals likely to be affected
Bulls become infected by mating with an infected cow. Young bulls (< 3 years of age) usually become free of the infection within 1-2 months, but older bulls tend to stay infected.
Heifers and cows are infected after service by an infected bull and may remain infected for a few months or longer in some cases. While infected females can become pregnant, the infection may cause abortion in the first months of pregnancy and may not be noticed.
Other diseases with similar signs
Other venereal diseases are rare in the Australian dairy herd. Non-specific factors can cause early abortions but, usually affect one or, at worst, several animals. See the page on abortion.
Confirming the diagnosis
Laboratory testing of samples from bulls or fresh aborted foetuses. Samples may be taken from the penis and prepuce of bulls, or a fresh aborted foetus.
Spread of the disease
Campylobacter fetus infection is a venereal disease that is readily spread by bulls serving cows.
Risks to people
No direct risk, but other organisms that cause abortion in cattle can cause serious disease in people. Therefore use good hygiene when handling cows that have aborted.
If you suspect campylobacter infection on your farm or in introduced animals, the most effective way to stop losses is to ask your vet to develop a vaccination program tailored to your situation.
- Natural mating rather than artificial insemination
- Introducing bulls of unknown status. Bulls that have not previously been used or have been vaccinated should be safe. Other bulls should be tested prior to use.