Neosporosis infection remains a major cause of abortion in UK cattle, farmers were warned at a meeting in Aberystwyth of the Farmers’ Union of Wales animal health and welfare committee.
Neosporosis is a parasitic infection caused by the protozoa Neospora caninum. Infected cows are known to abort between three and nine months of pregnancy, produce still or premature calves, and/or suffer from repeat abortions.
According to the Moredun Research Centre, infected cattle are three to seven times more likely to abort than uninfected cattle and, with no other obvious clinical signs, the disease can only be diagnosed via a blood test or through a post-mortem test following an abortion.
Infection is not passed through direct cattle-to-cattle contact but infected cattle may pass the parasite to their offspring over several generations and in successive pregnancies.
Today FUW animal health and welfare committee chairman Catherine Nakielny said: “Dogs are a source of infection if they eat livestock material, such as placentas from newly calved cows, that is contaminated by the parasite and then excrete the eggs of the parasite in their faeces onto pasture, feed, water or bedding used by cattle.
“Once ingested, the parasites spread around the body via the bloodstream. If the animal is pregnant, the parasite can invade the placenta and the foetus causing still births and abortion.
“The parasite can seriously affect the health of infected dogs. However, dogs don’t always display clinical signs,” said Dr Nakielny.
The union is asking those who walk their dogs in the countryside to follow best practise and pick up after their dogs.
“There is currently no vaccine available to protect against Neosporosis but there are some steps that farmers can take to help minimise the risk of livestock becoming infected.
“These include keeping hay, bedding, water and grazing land free of faecal contamination by dogs and the disposing of placentas, foetuses and stillborn calves in a correct and timely manner,” added Dr Nakielny.
Abortions can be caused by a variety of different diseases and the union would advise members to speak to their own vet about this issue.