Urine splash a real danger to dairy workers
Leptospira is spirochete, a family of disease that could loosely be called a bacterium. It comes onto the farm primarily by the introduction of an infected animal.
The disease is concentrated in the tissues of the cow, in particular the kidneys. It spreads via the urine and we must remember also that this disease is a zoonosis. That means it can spread to humans, so the dairy farmer is at particular risk as urine splash in the parlour leaves them in the direct line of fire.
The disease can enter the body via the eyes, nose or skin in general. This is all the more reason to have a vaccination programme in place to minimise the disease on the farm.
With dairy farms increasing in size, we see more farms taking on employees to milk the cows. That further heightens the employers' requirements to protect employees from unnecessary risk. All too often we ignore ourselves in this equation.
Leptospirosis will affect cattle at any stage of their life, causing a raised temperature, a sudden drop in milk output in the lactating cow, and abortion if they are pregnant at that time.
It's the milk drop and especially the abortion that cause financial loss in the dairy enterprise.
Vaccines are readily available and very effective and should be used on all dairy farms to prevent infection. Antibiotic treatment in the face of an outbreak is used from time to time, but it is expensive, difficult to administer and usually only a way of minimising abortions in the event of a massive disease breakdown. It is always more effective to use vaccines before the outbreak rather than attempting to batten down the hatches during a storm. The common rat is also a carrier of the disease and should be controlled as part of leptospirosis prevention.