Advice on Leptospirosis protection in dairy herds from Towcester Veterinary Centre

February 14, 2021

Dairy herds are particularly at risk from Leptospirosis due to management factors that increase the risk of exposure, including close contact within the herd and with dairy workers, confinement during milking and in the yard, and moist conditions.

Leptospirosis is a serious infectious disease that can have detrimental effects on a dairy herd’s health and production. It can also cause serious and sometimes long-term illness in humans. Are your dairy herd and workers protected?

Towcester Veterinary Centre’s large animal vets recommend a robust vaccination programme to give your dairy herd long-term immunity from Leptospirosis, protecting both cattle and humans.

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How Leptospirosis is spread:

  • Infected cattle can shed the bacteria in their urine for months and sometimes years, which causes new infections in susceptible animals.
  • The bacteria can survive for weeks in water, mud, and damp soil.
  • Infection can occur through fine urine droplets being inhaled by cattle and humans during milking.
  • The mouth, nose, eyes, and damaged skin can be penetrated by the bacteria.
  • Humans, cattle, sheep, pigs, rodents and most other mammals are at risk.

How dairy herds can be affected:

L. pomona infection:

  • Can affect most cattle within a herd, with fatalities of up to 100%.
  • Can cause dramatic milk reduction in older herds.
  • Can sometimes cause abortion.
  • Less common disease in calves that are fed colostrum from vaccinated cows giving them temporary immunity.

L. hardjo infection:

  • Can affect many cows in the herd.
  • Sudden drop in milk yields (up to 2 weeks), increased white blood cell count.
  • Can cause 5-10% abortion rate between 6-12 days after transmission.

When it comes to humans, the infection typically causes a severe flu-like illness for about a week, or can cause a recurring chronic disease or severe nervous symptoms in some people. Dairy herd farmers have a duty to protect workers and their families from Leptospirosis as a failure to do so can result in potential liability, as well as a reduction in their workforce while they recover.

The ideal aim of a vaccination programme is to immunise all cattle before infection occurs. If Leptospirosis is already present in the herd, vaccinating young uninfected cattle is where you would start.

Book a visit from Towcester Veterinary Centre’s large animal vets to assess your herd.

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