Neospora caninum is a parasite that infects cows, causing abortion and stillbirths. It is the most commonly diagnosed infectious cause of abortion in cattle. Neospora can cause abortion from three months of pregnancy onwards but typically we see cows aborting around 6-7 months gestation.
Cows become infected with Neospora by coming into contact with the faeces of dogs or wildlife species (e.g. foxes) that carry the parasite. Once a cow is infected, she may either abort or give birth to a live, infected calf. Sometimes these calves will be abnormal, but others may appear normal and will carry the parasite for their whole life – often undiagnosed until they too abort. Cows cannot catch the parasite from each other (only from dam to calf).
The key points for controlling Neospora are:
- Dogs and wildlife become infected with Neospora from ingesting the placenta or aborted fetuses from infected cows – so make sure all cleansings and aborted material are disposed of promptly, especially when calving outside
- Reduce contact between cattle and dog/wildlife faeces wherever possible – educate dog walkers about the importance of picking up poo! Worming dogs does not protect against Neospora.
- If you have cows either aborting unexpectedly, or unexplained empty cows at the end of calving, get in touch with us – a simple blood test can reveal if the cow is likely to be infected, and we may also advise doing further investigations for other diseases depending on your individual situation.
- Cows that are confirmed positive for Neospora have a 5x increased risk of aborting again – if you just have a few positive cows in the herd, our advice would often be to cull them to try and get rid of disease. If this isn’t possible then we would advise not to keep replacement heifers from infected cows, as these are also likely to be infected.
For more information or if you have any concerns about subfertility or abortion, have a chat with one of the vets.