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Investigation of balanitis in beef herds in southern Australia
There are two types of BHV that can cause venereal diseases in cattle, BHV-1 and -5. Clinical signs include reddening of the preputial or vaginal mucosae, pain associated with pustules or ulcerative lesions and abortion. In bulls, the pain caused by the lesions can lead to reduced serving capacity, hence reduced conception rates in the cow herd.
The initial studies identified that BHV-1 was associated with balanitis in some bulls, however not all the bulls with clinical signs were positive for BHV-1. Therefore, the primary aim of this project was to identify the cause of mid-season bull breakdowns caused by this syndrome, and establish if cows play any role in the transmission.
There were two parts to this project. Firstly, a producer survey to determine which farms may or may not have bulls affected with balanitis, followed by a serological survey to determine the prevalence of BHV in Victoria and southern New South Wales. Secondly, we attempted to identify farms which had a history of problems with bull breakdowns due to the syndrome described by veterinarians, serial sample a mob of cattle, bulls and cows and describe the progression of the syndrome, and risk factors associated with it, on these farms.
Swabs were used for a PCR that identified the presence of BHV-1 and -5 and a universal PCR was used to identify the presence of BHV. Samples which were negative for BHV-1 or -5, but positive on the universal PCR were assumed to be BHV-6 after sequencing of a proportion revealed this. The bloods were sent to IDEXX laboratories for immunoserological testing using an ELISA which detected glycoprotein-B-specific antibodies to Bovine Herpesvirus 1.
Results from the serological survey showed a wide range of sero-prevalence within herds tested, from 5.8 to 97.8%. There was a significant difference in the sero-prevalence of BHV in affected/suspected herds and non-affected herds, the overall average was 51.8% (range 5.8 to 97.8%) and 35.0% (range 5.8 to 84.0%), respectively (P<0.0001).
The second part of the project identified the presence of BHV-6 in penile and vaginal swabs. The significance of this finding is yet to be determined. Bovine Herpesvirus-1 and -5 were not identified in any of the samples collected, even though on two of the farms, the producers commented that the lesions present were typical of the syndrome.
Bull breakdowns can be devastating for beef enterprises, because no calf equates to no income. This project highlights the need for producers to get bulls examined by veterinarians, especially if there is no obvious reason for their breakdown. The financial benefit to producers is avoiding a disaster, either through poor conception rates or the need for an extended mating period due to a change of bulls halfway through the joining period. An extended mating period also creates problems with late-born steers not reaching turn off weight, and late-born heifers failing to reach mating weight.
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Balanitis in beef herds in southern Australia
This page was last updated on 05/07/2018
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