Animal health - Neosporosis a major cause of late-term abortion
Eoin Ryan of UCD Vet Hospital explains the clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment and the control/prevention Neosporosis.*

Neosporosis is a parasitic condition caused by the protozoan parasite Neospora caninum. It is one of the top three causes of late-term abortion in cows in Ireland, together with salmonellosis and leptospirosis.

As the name suggests, this parasite has a strong connection to canines. The dog or fox are the final hosts of this parasite and pass infective oocysts (protozoan eggs) in their faeces. Cattle become infected following ingestion of feed contaminated by dog or fox droppings (Figure 1). The parasites then migrate from the gut, through the blood, and settle out in the reproductive tract with resulting clinical signs.

While ingestion of contaminated feed or water is the main method of transmission, Neospora can also be transmitted vertically (from cow to calf) both inutero (during gestation) and via milk. There is also evidence that some horizontal transmission (from cow to cow) occurs in herds, mainly via infective vaginal discharges and placentae.


Cows/heifers can abort atany stage of gestation from three months on, but most abortions occur from five to six months (Figure 2). Abortion is not generally associated with retained placenta or sickness in the cow.

A characteristic of Neospora infection, however, is the much higher incidence of repeat abortions in cows exposed to the disease. Some cows may abort several times due to chronic Neospora infection.

As well as abortion, Neospora can cause mummification (the death of the foetus which is not aborted but shrinks down into a hard, non-specific mass), and the birth of weak, light calves, often with neurological deficits. Calves may have difficulty standing and sucking, as well as having poor reflexes and exophthalmia (protruding eyes). Not all foetuses are harmed, however, with the birth of normal calves from antibody positive cows.


Aborted foetuses and the accompanying placenta should be submitted to the regional veterinary laboratory for post-mortem, if at all possible. In fresh cases, lesions will be found on histopathology of the heart and brain. Blood testing of cows post-abortion should also be carried out and antibodies to Neospora will indicate that the cow has been exposed to this parasite, making it one of the most likely causes of the abortion.

Bulk milk antibody testing can also be used to screen a dairy herd for evidence of exposure, with subsequent blood testing to identify serologically positive animals.


There is no effective treatment in cattle.


Control of Neospora-induced abortion in cattle depends on protecting feed and water from contamination by the faeces of dogs or foxes. Doors and barriers around cattle feed should be kept closed as much as possible and dogs should not be allowed to eat aborted foetuses or placentae Figure 3).

Dogs should be wormed regularly with effective wormers such as praziquantel. There is a strong argument for the culling of seropositive (antibody positive) animals from the herd. Seropositive animals have been shown to suffer a higher risk of abortion than seronegative animals in the herd.

*This article previously appeared in the Irish Farmers Journal on 16 July 2011 as part of a series on animal health.

'Everything was falling apart' - farmers dealing with depression
The Macra event is being aimed at young people to encourage them to talk about their mental health.

Young farmers were urged at a Macra event to open up about their feelings and take care of their mental health.

The event was part of a series of talks organised by Jonathan Dwyer and John Keane, two north Tipperary Macra na Feirme members in conjunction with Healthy Ireland as part of an initiative called “Make a Moove”, aimed at helping young men in rural areas discuss mental health issues.

Addressing a crowd of 40 young people at Rackett Hall in Roscrea, Bill, shared his story with the crowd.

“I grew up in a dairy farm just outside Nenagh, there was nothing in me that would have ever shouted that I’d have any problems.

“One of the happiest days I ever had was when I got accepted in veterinary college in Budapest when I was 18.

Everything was falling apart in my own mind

“Unfortunately it was pretty soon after that that things started to derail for me. I moved to Hungary at 18 and I can’t explain it but the fun seemed to drip out of everything.

“Inwardly for seven years I was crumbling inside. Everything was falling apart in my own mind”

“I came back from Budapest and went to New Zealand for a while, I had a great time but still I wasn’t right.

“I went back helping on the farm, one day my father and I had very strong words and my mother took him away to cool down.

“When they left I walked out and went to Dublin.

“I didn’t realise that when my parents came back they thought the worst and apparently my father walked the farm looking for me because he thought that I’d done something.

“But I was in a very dark place for three months, I actually remember standing in CopperFace Jacks with no phone but internet connection where I was looking at places to check myself in.”

He told the group that it was soon after that he tried to take his own life.

“One after the other I took the painkillers and drank the bottle of whiskey and got into bed for what I hoped was the last time.

“The worst feeling I actually had was the day after when I woke up, that I’d even managed to fail to do this.

“I spent a couple more days lying in bed and trying to build up the energy to get up. I was thinking about a motorway that was nearby and jumping off it

“Thankfully the guys I was living with somehow got in contact with my parents.”

Going home

His mother and brother came to collect him from the house and brought him home.

Bill said that when he seriously thought about why he was depressed he linked it to alcohol, even the attempt he made on his own life had been after a three-day drinking session with friends.

After two years of therapy and working on himself he says he’s learned how to really live at life.

“With hindsight, the pain the drink had caused me was phenomenal,” Bill said.

“It wasn’t easy but the day I stopped drinking was the day my life changed.”

The next talk will be held on Thursday 25 April in the Anner Hotel, Thurles at 7.30pm.

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The farmer's daily wrap: machinery inspections and crunch week for Brexit aid
Check out all the latest news from the day and get a look ahead at tomorrow's weather.

Weather forecast

Thursday will be a dry evening, with hazy sunshine. It will be dry tonight, with clear spells.

Met Éireann predicts that Friday will be another dry day, but some cloud will develop later in the day in the west of the country.

Top temperatures between 16°C and 21°C.

In the news

  • The Health and Safety Authority will begin an intensive farm safety inspection campaign on Tuesday 23 April, with a particular focus on machinery.
  • The next few days will be crucial, after Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed called for a package of support from the European Commission for Irish beef farmers following €100m of Brexit-related losses.
  • The board of Carbery has set its milk price for supplies during the month of March.
  • The Government is considering drastic measures to tackle ammonia pollution.
  • There was a call to end delays and to change legislation immediately at the IFA Fair Deal protest.
    Graphic images: lamb pecked to death by crows
    A farmer has lamented the loss of a young lamb after crows attacked his flock.

    Ronan Delaney, a beef and sheep farmer in Co Meath, has warned other farmers to take care after finding one lamb with its eyes and tongue pecked out by crows while being born.

    The farmer said the lamb was attacked as it was being born.

    Delaney discovered the lamb on Wednesday 17 April and later on that day found a sheep with one of her eyes pecked out after she became stuck in a field.

    Ronan Delaney said the ewe was still sore after losing her eye when she was attacked by crows.

    Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, he said that crow attacks on sheep are a common occurrence every year, but it was sickening to see the devastation they wrought.

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