Leptospirosis occurs in cattle, sheep and goats. It is caused by bacteria called Leptospira.
The disease is spread by urine from infected animals contaminating pastures, water and feed. Humans can also be infected and the disease is a workplace health and safety issue for farm workers.
Conditions when leptospirosis is likely to occur
- Movement of infected animals into or among herds or flocks.
- Properties trading cattle, sheep or goats in conjunction with a breeding herd.
- Contact with a wildlife reservoir, such as feral pigs.
- Previous history of leptospirosis in the herd or flock.
- Access to wet areas where the bacteria survive.
- Regions with a hot humid climate.
- Farm workers and veterinarians handling animals shedding the bacteria.
Identifying and diagnosing leptospirosis
Diagnosis of leptospirosis will require assistance from a veterinarian.
Clinical signs that would lead producers to suspect leptospirosis include the following:
- Abortion or still births.
- Decline in quality and quantity of milk.
- Bloody port-wine coloured urine.
- Rough, dry coat.
- Severe fever and death in young animals.
Prevention strategies for leptospirosis
- Commercial vaccines are available for use in cattle, sheep and goats.
- Considering the risk of introducing infection when bringing in stock and only purchase animals with an animal health statement.
- Cattle Disease Guide from MLA's More Beef from Pastures
- Module 6 from MLA's Going into Goats Guide: A profitable producers' best practice guide
- New South Wales Department of Industry & Investment publication: Leptospirosis in Cattle Herds
- Department of Primary Industries Victoria publication: Leptospirosis
- Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation website.
- A recent MLA research project developed new diagnostic tests for reproductive diseases of cattle, including leptospirosis.
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