What is Vibriosis? 

Bovine Vibriosis (or Bovine Venereal Campylobacteriosis) is a venereal disease of cattle caused by the bacterium Campylobacter fetus. Vibriosis is one of the most significant infectious diseases of cattle in Australia and is widespread throughout Northern NSW beef and dairy herds. Bulls act as asymptomatic carriers and are the main source of transmission and the most common cause of disease introduction into clean herds. Bulls become infected after serving an infected cow/heifer and then spread the disease by mating with susceptible females. When introduced to a herd, disease spreads rapidly before any clinical signs are detectable. Cows and heifers can develop immunity once infected; however this immunity generally wanes after a year, resulting in re-infection and perpetuation of the disease within the herd.

What does Vibriosis cause?

Vibriosis is a major cause of infertility and abortion in Northern NSW. The reproductive inefficiency resulting from this disease is one of the most important economic factors of beef enterprises. The NSW DPI estimates that the gross profit margin of infected beef herds can be reduced by as much as 65% with new infection.

Common indicators that Vibriosis could be present in your herd:

  • Low conception rates – indicated by a poor calving rate or by a high empty rate at pregnancy testing. 

  • Irregular oestrous cycles or large numbers of females returning to oestrus – as a result of early embryonic loss.

  • Spread-out calving pattern – as a result of females returning to service.

  • Abortions (occasionally) – at approximately 6 months of gestation.

How to test for Vibriosis?

The disease is confirmed in infected heifers and cows by measuring the antibody levels in samples of Vaginal Mucous. A veterinarian will collect samples and submits them to a laboratory for testing. Bulls can also be tested for the presence of infection; however this test is less reliable. Additionally, submitting an aborted foetus to the laboratory may also provide a diagnosis.

How is Vibriosis treated? 

Vibriosis is best controlled by vaccination – veterinary advice should be sought before commencing a vaccination program.

Generally, vaccination protocols involve: 2x initial doses, given 4-6wks apart, followed by annual boosters. All vaccines should be given about 6 weeks prior to joining. In most instances, breaking the transmission cycle with vaccination will allow the disease to gradually die out.

Eradication of the disease from a herd is also achievable through the implementation of a comprehensive vaccination protocol, in addition to treatment of infected bulls with antibiotics.

How to prevent Vibriosis

Prevention is the most cost effective method of managing the disease. There are several options to help prevent disease in your herd:

  • Annual vaccination of Bulls 4 weeks prior to joining.

  • Use young, virgin bulls in the herd.

  • Purchase bulls from reputable breeders or Vibriosis vaccinated herds.

  • Consider the use of Artificial Insemination (AI) as an alternative to natural service sires.