Vibriosis (reproductive disease)


Vibriosis is a common venereal disease of cattle that is transmitted by mating infected bulls to susceptible cows. Infected bulls or cows moving between or among herds will spread the disease.

It is caused by the bacteria Campylobacter foetus, subspecies foetus. It is primarily a problem in heifers, but can be a problem with older cows not previously exposed and with no immunity. Incidence increases with the age of the bull.

Clinical signs:

Usually early embryonic death / early-term abortions which show up as early return to service, extended breeding season, low calving rates, spread out calving and very poor pregnancy rates (often less than 50% pregnancy).  Will affect all age groups if recently introduced or heifers mostly affected in herds where disease is endemic.


While some reproductive diseases have highly visible consequences, such as late-term abortions, many work silently with the result unseen for weeks or months. Where, in the absence of a drought or a seasonal feed shortage situation, there has been a dramatic reduction in pregnancy rates, branding rate or weaning rates, or major changes in calving distribution patterns, then the producer should suspect that reproductive disease is present and arrange for veterinary investigations to be done. In the case of diseases like vibriosis and trichomoniasis, failure to investigate and act may mean that herd fertility could be lower in the following year as well.

Management strategy to prevent disease:

Where security of paddocks is maintained, annual vaccination of bulls can give adequate herd protection (preferable approach for extensive herds).

Where cattle security cannot be maintained, initially all breeding cattle in the herd should be vaccinated. Thereafter, the most cost effective approach is to vaccinate all replacement heifers and bulls annually.

Culling all empty breeders at a pregnancy test will greatly reduce the prevalence of the disease, but pregnant animals may still be carriers of the disease. 

All introduced bulls should be vaccinated.

Reducing the age of bulls (to less than seven years), bull control and seasonal mating also facilitates disease control.


More information on vibriosis including causes, prevention and treatment can be found on the primefacts factsheet provided by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.