Apparent prevalence of hemotropic mycoplasma in dairy calves and replacement heifers on Michigan farms

L de Souza Ferreira, S Bolin, A Abuelo, B Norby, P L Ruegg

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The bovine hemoplasmas include Mycoplasma wenyonii and Candidatus Mycoplasma hemobos which are increasingly recognized as infecting cattle throughout the world. Infection with hemotropic mycoplasma has been reported to be widespread in mature dairy cows, but little is known about prevalence in calves and heifers. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence and dynamics of infection with M. wenyonii and C.M. hemobos infections in calves and replacement heifers on Michigan dairy farms and assess potential associations between infection status and hematological values. The study was designed as a prospective cross-sectional study with a longitudinal component. A convenience sample of 11 farms agreed to participate and were visited twice between March and September 2022. During the first farm visit, researchers collected blood samples from up to 94 animals per farm distributed among newborn and pre-weaned calves (n ≤ 31), weaned calves (n = 21), pre-breeding heifers (n = 21), and pregnant heifers (n = 21). During the first visit, blood samples (n = 174) were also collected from a convenience sample of mature cows to confirm the herd infection status. The same calves and heifers were sampled again about 95 d (±3.0) later. During the first visit, blood samples were collected from 797 calves and replacement heifers, while 675 samples were collected during the second visit due to inability to locate some animals. Detection of M. wenyonii and C. M. hemobos were based on results of real time PCR. The hematocrit was determined using microcentrifugation and the concentration of leukocytes using an automated cell counter. In all herds, most mature cows that were sampled tested positive for infection. The within herd apparent prevalence of hemoplasma in calves and replacement heifers was 100% for both M. wenyonii and C. M. hemobos. The apparent prevalence of hemoplasma in youngstock was associated with age. In calves that were 1 to 6 mo old, the prevalence of infection was 6-8% but sharply increased to 31% by 8 mo of age. In older animals, the prevalence remained high, and was almost 100% in animals greater than 17 mo of age. Based on calves and heifers sampled twice, the cumulative incidence varied widely among herds ranging from 3.7% to 96.0% and increased with age of animals. There was no difference in hematocrit or number of lymphocytes, monocytes, neutrophils, or total leukocytes based on infection status. The number of eosinophils was greater in infected animals. This is the first study to report the prevalence of hemoplasmas in calves and replacement heifers in the US It indicates that young calves can be infected with hemoplasmas, but the rate of infection is low. The likelihood of infection increases as animals age, with a notable rise in the proportion of infected heifers occurring by 8 mo old and the prevalence eventually reaching nearly 100% of infection in older animals. Once infected, heifers appear to remain chronic carriers. Hemoplasma infection alone does not usually lead to the development of clinical signs and most of the animals remain apparently healthy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4987-5000
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2024


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