Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Urine splash a real danger to dairy workers

Peadar O'Scannaill

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.

Key points

Also Read

nBulk milk testing can give an indication of leptospirosis presence on your farm.

nIdeally, vaccinate before the spring calvers begin their next pregnancy to give maximum protection.

nA sweeper bull can also be a source of infection so include him in the vaccine programme.

nForward replacement heifers should receive their primary vaccination before they are inseminated.

nThe first calver group are especially vulnerable if they are returning to the main farm to enter the milking group. It may be their first time as adults to meet the disease. Vaccinate before moving them from the outfarm back to base to prevent abortion.

nNever forget the zoonosis side of this disease. Unpasteurised milk can carry leptospirosis. Avoid its use by farm workers or family members.

nPoint out the risks to farm workers and ask everyone to take due precaution. Remember, eyes, nose, mouth and skin are entry points for the disease. Working around or near the tail-ends of infected cows raises the risk of infection.

nControl rodents on the farm as part of a disease-control programme.

nWhen buying in replacement stock always isolate, vaccinate and wait until disease-free before moving to the main herd.

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