CSU researchers identify potential cause of cattle reproductive problem


Scientists at CSU in Wagga Wagga have identified an organism that can cause significant reproductive problems in cattle herds.

Ureaplasma diversum under the microscope. Photo: Dr Kapil ChousalkaScientists at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga have identified an organism that can cause significant reproductive problems in cattle herds.
It’s the first time the Ureaplasma diversum (U.diversum) bacteria has been detected in cattle in Australia.
The bacteria can cause genital lesions, inflamation of the internal reproductive organs, early and mid  pregnancy loss of calves and the birth of sickly calves.
The research team from the CSU School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences led by Professor Peter Chenoweth and Dr Kapil Chousalka, examined cases in the Riverina and Upper Murray regions of NSW.
Professor Chenoweth said local veterinarians, Mr Dave Hall and Mr Bill Graham, sought advice after noticing bulls with severe genital lesions.
“The vets considered that it was a relatively recent problem that was getting worse, and that it was relatively widespread,” he said.
While the bacteria has been detected in southern NSW cattle herds, Professor Chenoweth expects  it will be present in other areas.
The economic impact of this bacteria in Australia is yet to be determined but a study in  a large affected cattle herd in the US showed a 15 to 17 per cent drop in the number of heifers calving.
Professor Chenoweth said the organism can be a benign inhabitant of the reproductive tract that can flare up in some circumstances.
“It’s spread during mating with an infected animal, but can also spread from mother to calf during birth and from the vagina to uterus during artificial insemination.”
Professor Chenoweth said the organism is difficult to culture and its identification is a testament to the skill of CSU researchers and the excellent diagnostic laboratory facilities available at the University.
“It has helped to provide at least part of the  answer to a mysterious problem and knowing what it is helps us to put management tools in place that can control or reduce the effects,” he said.
Professor Chenoweth believes treating with antibiotics during the joining season may reduce the impact of the organism.
He urges cattle producers to closely monitor bulls as the lesions often become worse during the second week of mating.
Professor Chenoweth said more research is needed to understand the epidemiology  of the  organism, including a possible interaction with feeding cattle high protein diets.

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