This study reports an outbreak of oriental theileriosis in dairy cattle imported to Vietnam from Australia. Following clinical and pathological diagnoses, a total of 112 cattle blood samples were divided into three groups and tested using multiplexed tandem PCR. Group 1 were from aborted heifers in Vietnam; group 2 were from cattle before shipment from group 1 cattle and group 3 were from the same batch of cattle but transported to Taiwan. Theileria orientalis DNA was detected in 72·3% cattle. The prevalences of T. orientalis in groups 1, 2 and 3 were 77·6, 86·9 and 57·5%, respectively, and the difference in prevalence was significant between groups 1 and 3 (P < 0·0001). The infection intensities of genotypes chitose and ikeda of T. orientalis were higher in groups 1 (57 721 and 33 709, respectively) and 3 (5897 and 61 766, respectively) than those in group 2 (2071 and 6331, respectively). Phylogenetic analyses of the major piroplasm surface protein sequences revealed that genotypes chitose and ikeda determined herein were closely related to those previously reported from Australia. This first report of an outbreak of oriental theileriosis in imported cattle emphasizes improved measures for the export and import of cattle infected with T. orientalis.