Del Miles, DVM, MS, Veterinary Research & Consulting Services LLC, Greeley, Colo., says the North American cattle industry has endured many changes throughout the years, but is no doubt encountering some of the most dramatic challenges in history during the first decade of the 21st century.

The U.S. cattle inventory increased from 1990 to a high of 103.5 million in 1996 and since has declined to a low of 94.5 million January 1, 2009. Even though economic signals have been in place to encourage the cow herd to increase the last 5 years, a significant decrease occurred during 2008.

It is very difficult to determine the precise cost to the industry of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), says Miles, but it is reported to be greater than $500 million per year. “Numbers from our practice indicate the losses from BRD have been inconsistent over the last 18 years with five year cycles of decreases and increases,” Miles said.

The questions Miles poses to the industry are: Is it time for the industry to look for other ways to improve death loss instead of continuing to focus on the pathogens? Is it time to focus on the animal’s response to the pathogens instead of the organisms.