Beef producers would do well to remember bovine respiratory disease can have a significant impact on lifetime performance and weight gain and to develop an early treatment program.
"Unchecked, BRD can cause permanent lung damage, decreasing the animal's efficiency," says Marc Campbell, a Merial large animal veterinarian. "This limits its ability to reach its genetic potential and increases the overall cost of raising it to closeout."
BRD progresses swiftly and can cause great damage to the lungs. That's why early identification and intervention with a fast-acting antimicrobial gives the animal the best chance at recovering with limited lung damage, Campbell says.
First, know the clinical signs of BRD. Pull and evaluate cattle with any of these signs:
• Cattle that are a little slow or lethargic.
• Cattle that have a snotty nose.
• Cattle that look weak.
• Cattle lacking appetite.
Campbell recommends a minimum of two checks per day for 30-45 days on new arrivals and at-risk cattle. By checking twice a day, he says, beef producers can get ahead of the condition by as much as 12 hours, which can have a significant impact on success rates.
Campbell adds that checking an animal's temperature can be helpful in identifying BRD, it's not as simple as reading a thermometer and diagnosing the disease.
"While the average is 101 degrees, that may not be normal for a particular calf," says Campbell. "In some animals, a temperature as low as 102 degrees can be a sign of fever. Also, fevers can come and go."
He says that in many cases, clinical signs can be more important in diagnosis than actual fever.
When you diagnose a calf with BRD, Campbell recommends giving them a proven antimicrobial that offers a rapid response, such as Zactran, a long-acting antimicrobial in his company's stable. Then give the drug a chance to help the immune system, he adds. Allow a few days before making further treatment decisions.
"With antimicrobial use, it's very important to give the correct dose," Campbell adds. Overdosing wastes money, but underdosing can deliver a poor results. Ideally, you should weigh the individual calf. If you're using an average weight, should look at the sick animal's size in comparison to other animals in the group and adjust accordingly to help ensure that calf receives a therapeutic dose.
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"Even with products like Zactran that show a rapid response, animals won't be 'cured' in just a few hours," Campbell says. He recommends working with your veterinarian to establish a post-treatment interval in which clinical signs are closely monitored over a few days before determining if retreatment is necessary.
The first goal and the most successful method in dealing with BRD should always be prevention, says Campbell. He recommends preconditioning and sourcing pre-conditioned cattle. He adds that working with a veterinarian to develop vaccination protocols against known BRD pathogens can also play a big role in prevention.
You can watch educational videos about BRD at Zactran.com.