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Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis occurs in cattle, sheep and goats. It is caused by bacteria called Leptospira and can lead to foetal abortions and stillbirths.

The disease is spread by urine from infected animals contaminating pastures, water and feed. Infected animals can carry the bacteria for a long time and may not display any clinical signs. It is a zoonotic disease that can infect humans. It 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 certain wildlife, such as feral pigs
  • previous history of leptospirosis on the property or 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.

Identification and diagnosis

Diagnosis of leptospirosis will require assistance from a veterinarian.

Clinical signs that would lead you 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

An integrated approach to prevent leptospirosis should consider the following:

  • vaccinating the whole flock or herd following the directions on the vaccine label. Commercial vaccines are available for use in cattle, sheep and goats
  • developing and implementing a farm biosecurity plan
  • considering the risk of introducing infection when bringing in stock and only purchasing animals with an animal health statement