There are different sectors of the cattle industry with different needs and objectives. By raising points on what certain management practices are ideal, perhaps we can collectively work toward those practices. It’s not easy but if better outcomes can be achieved for all, so much the better.
We know preconditioning, which includes preimmunization and on-farm weaning, leads to reduced mortality and illnesses from bovine respiratory disease. It also leads to fewer instances of other conditions, such as histophilus, that occur in the feedlot.
For preconditioning to be most effective, calves must be nutritionally healthy and old enough. The proper respiratory vaccines must be used and boostered appropriately, ideally a couple weeks before weaning.
The weaning must be as stress-free as possible. This may mean using two-stage weaning or fence-line weaning and done when other stresses, such as weather, commingling or transportation, are kept out of the equation.
We know that preconditioning has huge repercussions throughout the animal’s life regarding sickness and performance.
BVD is still a big problem because of the persistent shedders of the virus that spread it from calf to calf in feedlot pens, making cattle more susceptible to respiratory disease.
If given at the right time to the cow before pregnancy, the protection from BVD vaccines is very good and would eliminate the persistent shedders.
Doing this work puts the onus on the cow-calf producer. I hope with our traceability system and private enterprises like BIXS, that cow-calf producers can be rewarded for these efforts. The producers that vaccinate with the right vaccines and booster and deworm and wean on-farm definitely have a much superior commodity to sell.
Earlier disease detection is also a key component to herd health. Currently, research is exploring certain techniques such as thermography, which can pick up temperature increases in parts of the body before sickness is evident. From rumen boluses to tracking ear tags to measuring ruminal contractions, technology that can help with earlier detection and treatment is improving.
Some countries use a vaccine (GnRH) that induces castration to get away from the pain of castration. It is definitely worth at least looking at. Regulatory approval and safety will be the determining factor in a castration-type vaccine.
Down the line, a mycoplasma vaccine could be developed, which hopefully could greatly reduce the incidence of the pneumonic and arthritic form of that disease. Pasteurella multocida, another bacterium that causes bovine respiratory disease, is now available in some vaccines. Immunestimulators are on the market and time will tell if they make an impact.
Advances in cattle handling, new processing techniques, more direct marketing and more convenient ways to administer product all reduce stress and help with cattle health and well-being.
When we investigate disease outbreaks, often the causes are linked to biosecurity breaks tied in with cattle stressors.
With all the recent happenings with diseases like porcine epidemic diarrhea or African swine fever, we know to safeguard strict biosecurity at our borders.
Traceability, once fine-tuned, may help us restrict spread of these types of diseases.
The cattle industry, like the swine or poultry industries, is vulnerable to foreign diseases.
Quicker laboratory tests or better testing methods are being developed for diseases like tuberculosis, culture and sensitivities on bacteria, or parasites. In the case of tuberculosis or Johne’s disease, getting away from the false-positive and false-negative tests will help more quickly locate disease occurrences so culling can be carried out.
Media outlets, such as newspapers and magazines, and the proper forms of social media, have become established ways to inform producers about potential issues they need to watch for.
We must share the information in a confidential matter. A disease outbreak can be devastating to the individual involved, but if they can get help, and if the whole industry benefits from that knowledge to prevent future outbreaks, so much the better.
The cattle industry has many veterinarians, nutritionists, meat scientists and researchers in both government and private practice forging ahead with improvements every day. Watch and listen for them.
Roy Lewis works as a technical services veterinarian part time with Merck Animal Health in Alberta.