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The Successful Management of Leptospirosa hardjo Infection in a Beef Herd in Northern Ontario

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Abstract

Abortion, premature calving, hemolytic anemia and fatal hematuria were associated with high levels (titer > 10−4) of antibody to Leptospira interrogans serovar hardjo and with isolation of hardjo in a herd of 265 beef cattle in the Great Clay Belt of northern Ontario. This herd was bred by artificial insemination, after heat detection by vasectomized bulls. The antibody prevalence rate in the herd was 54 to 60% over a five year period. The rate tended to reach 100% by age three years and to be below 5% in yearlings, which were raised in isolation from older cattle. Hardjo was isolated from the urine of a cow that aborted in the eighth month of pregnancy, and from kidneys of yearling steers which had been exposed to an older cow. Maternal antibody levels in calves paralleled those in their dams, protecting calves while they were being naturally exposed to infection, thus contributing to the achievement of balance between host and parasite. A controlled vaccination trial was conducted in 50 initially seronegative yearling steers and heifers. Serological response to vaccine was limited to a maximum agglutinin titer of 10−2 in 8% of vaccinated cattle. Vaccination reduced the infection rate from 86% in the controls to 46% in the treated group, indirectly reducing the number of calves for which colostral antibody against hardjo would be available. A vaccination program was not implemented in the herd. Hardjo infection appeared to die out over a period of six years following the initial five year study period, with antibody prevalence falling from 60% to 0.7% and reactors persisting only in two eight year old cows. Decline in infection was coincident with changes in management which protected heifers from exposure to infection until their third pregnancy, and which probably lowered the reservoir of infection by increased culling from older age classes.

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