Franklin Vets Blog

It’s time to vaccinate those autumn calves against lepto

July 19, 2021

Leptospirosis (“Lepto”) is one of the most common infectious diseases spread from animals to humans. It is considered a workplace hazard for those working with animals, but anyone with grazing animals is potentially at risk of exposure.Lepto bacteria

Lepto is caused by bacteria that are shed in large numbers in the urine of infected animals and survive well in water. Splashes of urine or water containing the bacteria can then enter other animals or humans through membranes in the nose, mouth or eyes, or cuts in the skin. Most mammals can be infected, including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, rats and other rodents.


There are several types of lepto bacteria. Each type causes slightly different symptoms, which can range in severity in different animal species from no signs to severe illness causing abortion, liver and kidney damage and death. The disease is also known as “red water” as it can cause urine to become red coloured.

In people, the severity of infection can also range from mild to severe forms requiring hospitalisation. Symptoms include severe headaches, high fever, nausea, muscle pain, light sensitivity and jaundice. For some people, these signs can recur over several years.person with lepto

The best way to prevent you and your workers from contracting lepto is via calf and herd vaccination. If vaccination is initiated early enough(first shot at 3-6 months of age, with booster 4-6 weeks later) we can prevent the formation of lepto “shedder” calves coming through into your herd. If the calves are vaccinated after they have been exposed, they are more likely to continue to shed lepto in their urine.

For this reason, it is crucial that we are vaccinating the calves early, as the risk of them becoming exposed is greater during wet conditions.
As it is now late winter and very wet, talk to us today about booking autumn calves in to be vaccinated as soon as possible. We can time your vaccinations to misimise yardings so other treatments may be administered on the same day. Feel free to enquire about the best plan to keep your herd and staff protected from lepto. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Dr Graeme Charteris BVSc – Farm Vet at Pukekohe