The right receiving protocols lead to better performance

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
by WLJ
Whether starting lightweight calves or growing and finishing cattle, a sound receiving program that includes prevention, control and treatment measures for respiratory issues helps offset the guessing game producers are typically faced with.

“Unless producers are buyig known origin cattle or animals verified with SelectVAC, they don’t know what they’re getting,” says Mitch Blanding, DVM, Pfizer Animal Health veterinarian, Lenexa, Kan. “In any given group of animals, we don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated and for what, we don’t know if the sick animals have been ill for 1 or 5 days, we may not even be sure if they’ve come from a drought-stricken area that adds to the ‘normal’ level of stress.”

Prevention is the most economical medicine

Blanding says the most economical place to start to intervene with respiratory disease is with prevention. A beneficial practice to keep in mind is that for every hour animals spend in transport, give them at least that much time after they arrive before you start vaccinating. This allows them a chance to rest before the additional stress of processing.

“We first try to intervene with those animals that have a competent immune system and are capable of responding to a vaccine,” Blanding says.

However, many animals’ immune systems are already compromised due to not only their young age, but also risk factors such as nutritional and trace mineral deficiency, or other stressful events associated with the marketing process like weaning, heavy commingling and shipping.

“In high-risk cattle, it would not be unusual to have a significant percentage of the animals not respond to the initial vaccination,” Blanding says. “A common practice in many operations is to revaccinate these animals somewhere between 8 and 12 days after arrival in hopes of starting an immune process in more of the animals and enhancing the overall level of immunity of the group.”

On-arrival control measures add up

For a certain population of animals, it will be too late to intervene with prevention. Risk factors may be stacked against them; they may be incubating bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and are either sick on arrival or will soon become sick. For these animals, Blanding recommends administering a control antibiotic to catch the disease early and put the animal on the road to recovery and gaining weight as quickly as possible.

“Using extended therapy products is a groundbreaking concept for on-arrival control programs,” Blanding says. “These products can last up to 7 days and work with the animal’s own immune system to respond and help fight the infection. However, it can be difficult for some producers to trust the product is working.”

Study results back up what Blanding recommends. Studies show that using an extended therapy antibiotic that maintains therapeutic blood concentrations for up to 7 days, compared to the traditional 3 days, results in healthier calves that start eating at the bunk faster, resulting in more weight gain and better carcass value. Using these products on arrival also reduces the total number of pulls.

“Many animals just need a longer time to recover, and convalescing animals are more susceptible to reinfection,” Blanding adds. “Extended therapy products protect the animal for a longer period of time, allow the animal’s immune system to help fight off additional bacteria and reduce the reinfection that sometimes takes place during the convalescing period.”

It may come down to treatment

Ideally, you’ve impacted all the animals in a group with either prevention or control and no animals need additional treatment. However, producers know that’s not realistic; there are individuals in any group that fall into each category of needing prevention, control or treatment.

“We’ve tried to intervene with vaccines to prevent the disease, we’ve tried to intervene with an extended therapy antibiotic to control the disease, but some animals will get sick regardless, and then it’s time to intervene with additional treatment,” Blanding adds.

At the point when treatment is necessary, it is critical to choose a proven, effective antibiotic to prevent chronics, reduce the loss of cattle due to BRD and avoid significant risks to performance.

Additional benefits to BRD control

Blanding reminds producers that operational efficiency is another benefit of controlling BRD. “A producer may not be able to maximize opportunities because of limitations in cattle health,” he says. “If he is spending more time tending to sick animals, then he has less time to start new groups. Dealing with sick cattle can be a bottleneck in operations.”

That’s in addition to treatment costs, labor associated with treatments and closeout value. It all adds up to maximizing profitability with a BRD protocol of prevention, control and treatment, and working with your veterinarian to select the best products and technologies available.