Written by Dr Santjie Pieterse
Brucellosis in a beef herd may be compared to a slow spreading cancer eroding your herd from internally. One may think that all is well until the reality suddenly dawns upon you. It is an erosion disease which one should never underestimate.
Brucellosis is one of the biggest threats to your herd in South Africa and to ignore this is equivalent to indirectly acknowledging that you are farming with livestock without the objective to derive a profit from them.
As a veterinarian and livestock farmer I decided from the onset that a stringent brucellosis management program had to be one of the most important priorities in my herd.
Brucellosis is an important zoonosis (disease transmitted from animals to man) and occupational disease hazard which may sometimes have serious consequences for humans.
Infected cows and heifers often remain permanent carriers of the bacteria and contamination of the environment takes place with huge numbers of organisms when they calf or abort. Hence it is of utmost importance that with good management practice and with the use of a good traceability system that ALL infected cows, and their progeny (calves) be immediately removed from your herd. Failing to do so and to implement this important culling step, will result in brucellosis remaining in the herd.
Stud breeders who market breeding bulls are rudely awakened when their bulls test positive for brucellosis shortly before an auction having been born from infected mothers. The costs to breed bulls and to raise them speak for themselves. The financial losses and accompanying loss of reputation to your stud name are huge.
Commercial beef producers have as much to lose in terms of profitability in the herd if brucellosis is ignored. A female animal usually only aborts once but she remains a constant source of infection in discharges when coming on heat or calving. Inter-calving periods may increase and reproduction management becomes difficult. Positive female animals have to be culled and financial losses escalate.