Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is a complex infectious disease and one of the most common causes of illness and mortality in stocker and feedlot operations. Substantial economic loss exists every year due to costs of treatment, production loss, and death. BRD, also known as Shipping Fever and Pneumonia, is the most common disease among feedlot cattle in the United States, accounting for approximately 75 percent of feedlot morbidity (illness) and 50 percent to 70 percent of all feedlot deaths.
Bovine respiratory disease has many potential causes. The disease complex is triggered by some form of stress to the calf or yearling. These stresses often include weaning, fluctuating weather, wet conditions, transport, and commingling of different groups of cattle. Calves are often adjusting to a change in feed and becoming accustomed to bunks. Crowding in auction barns, feedlots, barn yards, and corrals may promote the transmission of infectious agents among animals. Infectious agents include viruses such as BVD, BRSV, IBR, and PI3, which are often involved early in the course of the disease. They cause destruction of the respiratory system’s defense mechanisms, allowing bacteria to invade and colonize in the lungs. These bacteria include Mannheimia hemolytica, Mycoplasma bovis, and/or Pasturella Multocida.
The recognition and treatment of BRD is vital to the economic well-being of the stocker cattle producer. The most common and earliest recognizable clinical sign of pneumonia is depression. Calves exhibiting depression will have drooped ears, an extended head, a hunched up stance, and will isolate themselves from other cattle. As these calves get progressively sicker, they will go off feed and will exhibit an increased respiratory rate. The depression seen in these calves is due to the fever that they have. Their temperature will often be between 40.0 and 42.5 degrees Celsius (104-108 degrees Fahrenheit). The clinical signs are usually seen 7-21 days after the calves are weaned, but can occur anywhere from 2-30 days.
As mentioned above, BRD has significant economic impact on producers and feedlots. On average, calves that remained healthy gained from 0.31-0.50 lb per day more than calves sick and treated for BRD in the first 21 to 42 days. Calves which have been treated successfully for BRD, gained from 0.14 to 0.56 lb per day less than calves that remained healthy throughout the entire feeding period suggesting that the effects of BRD are long-term. Feedlot calves sold prematurely because they fail to respond satisfactorily to treatment for BRD result in losses of $240 to $307 per head.
The cost of BRD can be staggering and overwhelming. Therefore prevention is vital to a profitable and viable beef program. At Twin Valley VHS, we recommend that all calves are vaccinated with Pyramid 5 + Presponse SQ at, or ideally, 2 weeks before weaning. Pyramid 5 + Presponse SQ protects them against 2 types of BVD, IBR, PI3, BRSV, and Mannheimia hemolytica.
Early recognition of BRD is an important factor in successfully treating calves affected with pneumonia. In some operations, treating with an antibiotic at the time of weaning or processing may be necessary. Facilities that mix animals, feed auction market derived calves, or have no preconditioning practices, should consider treating with a strong long-acting antibiotic such as Zuprevo or Draxxin. Producers that have a lowered risk of pneumonia in their calves may choose to treat with a long-acting antibiotic such as Oxy-Vet, Liquamycin, or Zactran. We recommend discussing your treatment program with your local veterinarian to plan an appropriate treatment plan that fits your management system.
If you have any questions regarding the above information or any questions/concerns in general, please contact Twin Valley VHS at 745-6642.
Dr. Justin Noble DVM
Twin Valley Veterinary Health Services