Leptospirosis is a common and important infectious disease in New Zealand. Infected animals can pass it on to humans through their urine or any urine contaminated water. It is seen mostly in farm workers and people who work in meat processing plants. Symptoms in humans include fever, chills, vomiting and diarrhoea and it can progress into Weil’s disease which is a serious health risk. Not only is it very important as it can affect us, but it can also be a cause of production loss on your farm. It can cause different problems in cows including mastitis, abortions, kidney disease and stillbirths. This commonly manifests as a cause of poor fertility in herds. Cows can also become carriers and still shed infection in their urine, making it an unseen risk to staff.
The best way to control Leptospirosis on farm is through vaccination. Cows and R2s should be vaccinated around dry off and R1s can be vaccinated from late summer to autumn so that they coincide with herd vaccination in future years. The Leptoshield vaccine comprises 2 vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart. This should be given to calves and any stock on farm with unknown vaccination history. An annual booster is then all that is required to ensure your animals are protected. Calves can be vaccinated from as early as 4 weeks of age with 7 in 1 (2 vaccinations as calves with a booster now).
Other methods of control include vermin control as it can be spread from rats, hedgehogs, possums and other farm animals in their urine. Ways of protecting yourself and workers include ensuring protective clothing and gloves are worn at all times. If you have any queries about leptospirosis on your farm and need any further advice in regard to vaccination schedules, please do not hesitate to call in to have a chat with one of our vets. We have resources we can use for staff training and certification of lepto use for your farm.