8 Mar 2012

Research underway on leptospirosis

12:07 pm on 8 March 2012

Researchers at Massey University are working to plug the gap in information about leptospirosis among sheep and beef herds.

Leptospirosis is most commonly associated with the dairy and pig industries and can be transmitted to humans by way of infected urine.

The disease can produce flu-like symptoms and in rare cases causes death.

Cord Heuer, an associate professor at Massey University, is part of The Farmer Leptospirosis Action Group, which is funded by industry and the Government.

He says the group investigates how the disease affects productivity of livestock, and monitors the effectiveness of vaccinations.

Mr Heuer says a particular focus this year is on sheep and beef cattle, in a bid to increase the historically low vaccination rate among those herds.

He says there's a large body of information on gauging how much disease is on sheep farms.

Mr Heuer says about half the adult ewes in the country have experienced exposure and it's the same for beef cattle.

He says young animals need to get vaccinated early, but a lot of sheep farmers don't vaccinate because they want to avoid the expense.

In the case of cattle, most dairy farmers vaccinate their cows against leptospirosis but he says recent studies show this is not working as well as it should.

"The New Zealand Veterinary Association has asked us to review best practice recommendations for veterinarians to use vaccines.

"The way vaccine has been used is apparently not always successful."

Mr Heuer says the group will release its report on sheep and beef cattle midway through next year.