In beef cattle production, there are essential practices we must do to treat animals, and other practices that vary from region to region, pen to pen, or year to year.
On some procedures, monitoring must be consistent to enable the producer and the herd veterinarian to set out specific points as to when to initiate a procedure, drug, antibiotic, staff training or whatever is necessary to improve the situation
Monitoring and testing can cost money but it can give key information on which to base our answers.
Some procedures may even be eliminated or reduced after herd monitoring, if the findings show them to be unnecessary.
Differences in practices can be based on location, weather, available feed, local disease prevalence, and other regional factors, but sometimes it is simply a matter of tradition.
With lice becoming more prevalent because of potential resistance, there is discussion about when to apply treatments and whether repeat treatments are necessary?
Feedlots may elect to delay lice treatments until populations are higher to give them a bigger bang for the buck.
If the best time to treat is deemed to be early winter to late fall, a decision must be made on whether to delay treatments on summer or early-fall placed cattle. This makes management more difficult but if it means better results, it may be worth it.
Internal parasite species and population numbers affect the efficacy of the product used, which raises questions about monitoring to identify those pens that specifically need to be treated.
Blanket treatment has been the normal practice, but prudent use and treating where appropriate promises to become the wave of the future.
Initial work on speciation shows big differences in species of internal worms based on geographic locations. This may be evident even farm to farm. It raises questions about whether herds or pens should be monitored before treatment is initiated. In certain countries in Europe, producers need to show a positive fecal test from a veterinarian before they can buy a horse dewormer.
If we look at cattle sales where health protocols are indicated and with growing resistance to insecticides, parasiticides and antibiotics, we may need to add monitoring measures to the protocols to ensure healthy cattle are being sold. This could help assess if the product being used is working.
Quicker, broader and hopefully less expensive ways to determine antimicrobial resistance will allow more veterinarians to get meaningful information. This will help us make informed decisions on antibiotic selection. As well, the culture results will indicate which organisms, both viral and bacterial, are involved in the infection.
Monitoring disease is not a cookbook approach, which makes it difficult. We know certain organisms are ubiquitous. Positive results must be tempered with degree of significance, the health of the calves and stress levels to provide the correct answers on how to treat.
I have seen decisions to treat that cost thousands of dollars based on little more than coffee room talk. It is great to have anecdotal testimonials and they can be pursued, but keep in mind every herd is slightly different.
With data and information, you and your herd veterinarian can make informed decisions.
The cattle industry will be better for it long term and we can explain to the public why we do what we do.