A new leptospirosis vaccine

We can now protect against all strains of lepto circulating in our dairy herds in New Zealand.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, caused by a family of bacteria, that can infect multiple species, including people. 

Three groups of people who are at high risk of contracting lepto are:

  1. Meat workers

  2. Farmers

  3. Hunters. 

Lepto is spread through contact with infected urine or waterways. Once the bacteria gets into the body through the mouth, nose or eyes, it can lead to flu-like symptoms and, potentially, kidney failure. In people, the disease is known as Weils disease.

With the high risk to farm workers (particularly dairy workers as they often work beneath the cows in urine splash zones), good protocols should be followed on-farm including:

  • No eating, drinking or smoking in the cow shed, as all these increase risk of bacterial entry into the mouth;

  • Wearing gloves and washing hands thoroughly before having food;

  • Covering all cuts or any other breaks in the skin; 

  • Having good pest control methods, as rats and mice regularly carry strains of lepto.


There have been vaccinations around for different species of lepto since the 70s. However, recently there has been a rise in clinical cases in farm and veterinary staff, thought to be caused by the Pacifica strain, which has previously not been covered by the traditional cattle vaccines.

We have been vaccinating with Lepto 3-Way, which has covered the 3 main species of lepto (Hardjo, Pomona and Copenhageni). However, Virbac has now released an updated vaccine, Lepto 4-Way, which also covers Pacifica.

Credit: Virbac

Credit: Virbac

Like most vaccines, to offer adequate protection to this additional strain, it requires a sensitising shot, which gets a small primary response of the immune system going as it recognises the new components that it has never seen before. 

A booster shot is then required 4-6 weeks later, which gives a much stronger and longer-lasting response, as it recognises the components. (It's a bit like bumping into someone you already know - it is far easier to get a conversation going with them compared to meeting them for the first time).

Roll out of Lepto 4-Way

Unfortunately, to date, WMP has declined to cover the cost of the additional injections required, however, we are actively looking into other ways we can subsidise these costs. 

If we are successful with this subsidy, the vaccine will unfortunately not be available until early Feb. We are hoping to do cows and R2s this year and R1s and R2s next season. This would line them all up and keep it a clean changeover.

If you have any questions about the new vaccine, or ways to protect yourself, family and workers on-farm, please give us a ring for a chat.