In August, the USDA:APHIS National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) program will conduct the Feedlot 2011 Study. I asked Dave Dargatz, DVM, PhD, USDA:APHIS about the importance of this 2011 feedlot study and how veterinarians can be involved.

“This will be the first time in the 11 years that the NAHMS program has taken a comprehensive look at health and management of cattle in feedlots,” Dargatz says. “Much has changed in the industry over that period and we have heard that there is a critical need to update the information that we last collected during the Feedlot ’99 study.”

The information from the NAHMS program is used to make decisions at many different levels:

  • Producers use the information for benchmarking. 
  • Veterinarians use the information to compare clients’ operations to others in the industry. 
  • The industry organizations use the information to assess education needs, set policy and respond to inquiries about industry standards. 
  • The allied industries such as the pharmaceutical and biologics firms use the information to identify research needs. 
  • Government granting organizations and academics use the information to target research to high priority issues. 
  • Other government organizations use the information to set science-based policy regarding key industry issues.  

“With the information being used in so many ways it is very important to have information that accurately reflects the current status of the production system,” Dargatz adds. “Veterinarians can use the information from the study to help their clients consider optimum production practices and to benchmark their performance against the rest of the industry.”

In the NAHMS surveys veterinarians are repeatedly identified as highly respected sources of information and key influencers of producers’ decisions. “To have accurate data that represent the feedlot industry it is very important that there is a high level of participation among the producers who are selected for the study,” Dargatz notes. “Veterinarians are in a position to help producers see the value of their participation for the good of the industry and to encourage them to take the small amount of time out of their busy schedules to participate in the voluntary and confidential survey.” 

About the USDA NAHMS Feedlot 2011 Study
Selected feedlot managers/owners will be contacted by representatives from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service during August to begin the first phase of Feedlot 2011, a national study of beef feedlots in the United States. 

Conducted by NAHMS, Feedlot 2011 will provide the industry with an update of critical information last collected 12 years ago during the NAHMS Feedlot ’99 study. Five objectives for the study have been identified:

  • Describe changes in management practices and animal health in feedlots.
  • Describe the management practices in feedlots that impact product quality.
  • Identify factors associated with shedding of potential foodborne pathogens or commensal organisms by feedlot cattle.
  • Describe antimicrobial usage in feedlots.
  • Describe biosecurity practices and capabilities in feedlots.

The information that feedlot producers provide will be used to estimate the use of certain management practices — such as those related to beef quality assurance — and to identify potential risk factors associated with disease on U.S. feedlots. Understanding the risk factors for disease can improve disease prevention strategies and help pinpoint areas where additional research may be needed. 

From August 1 through August 30, NASS representatives will administer the study questionnaire to participants on large feedlots (1,000 or more head) in 12 states and to participants on small feedlots (less than 1,000 head) in 13 states. For large feedlots, the questionnaire will be completed on-site, while the questionnaire for small feedlots will be completed by telephone. In addition, owners/operators of large feedlots will have the opportunity to participate in phase 2 of the study, information for which will be collected by representatives from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from October through December.

Participation in the Feedlot 2011 study is voluntary. As always, links between NAHMS data and participating operation’s identity are not included in national databases.

For additional information on this topic, contact Lyndsay Cole at (970) 494-7410 or e-mail Lyndsay at: