There is an epidemic in New Zealand of infectious bovine anaemia associated with Theileria orientalis Ikeda type, an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite. To establish whether T. orientalis Ikeda type infection adversely affects fertility of bulls used for natural mating, a randomised controlled experimental study was conducted. Ten of 17 2-year-old Friesian bulls that had not been previously infected with T. orientalis were infected with T. orientalis Ikeda type and then evaluations occurred during a 20-week period. There were semen and libido evaluations every 2 weeks, starting 4 weeks before the date of infection. In addition, there were blood collections, for haematocrit and infection intensity evaluations, rectal temperatures recorded, and bulls weighed three times weekly for 13 weeks after infection and then once weekly until completion of the study. Physical activity meters were also attached from Days 9-60 and 65-124 post-infection. The ten bulls were successfully infected with T. orientalis Ikeda type and this resulted in a decrease in HCT to about 0.25 by 70 days post-infection. There were no effects of infection on semen quality; however, during the acute phase of infection, when the infection intensity was rapidly increasing, the infected bulls took a longer time period for repeated mounting of females, and were less dominant in the herd social heiracrchy. In conclusion, although the transitory effects on libido could reduce conception rates, the overall effects of T. orientalis Ikeda type infection on bull fertility will probably be little.
Keywords: Cattle; Experimental infection; Ikeda; Libido; Semen; Theileria orientalis.
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