The beef feeding industry recognizes that feeder calves entering the finishing, back grounding, or stocker phases of production pose several challenges and risks. Identifiable risks include the economic risk of the volatile purchase and sales prices of the cattle, the risks of increasing feed and ancillary costs, the risk of poor performance, and the risk of disease, death loss and the associated costs. In regards to animal health risks, Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is the major disease risk for feeder and stocker cattle and the most demanding health challenge that producers face. Cattle feeders should prioritize to control BRD and minimize these risks with sound management and cooperative planning with their herd veterinarian.
BRD: Effects on Production
Morbidity and mortality in newly weaned/received feeder cattle from Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) continues to be the most significant health problem facing the feeding industry. BRD accounts for well over 50% of all cattle treated for sickness with reported average incidence rates in groups of calves at 14% (Loneragan, 2001). Several studies have documented the economic impacts of disease on the profit outcomes of calves. Direct costs attributable to BRD include death losses, treatment and labor costs, and prevention costs. BRD has been shown to impact growth performance and feed efficiency, days on feed, carcass merit and market value. The bottom-line of all studies indicates that BRD can decrease the returns of individual cattle from $50 to $250.
A summary of the Iowa Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity Data (2002-2004) revealed the following:
- Healthy cattle returned $201.16 per head more than cattle treated twice for disease
- Increased death loss and treatment accounted for up to $148.47 per head in lost revenue, while reductions in performance and carcass merit further reduced net return by an additional $52.69 per head
- 17.5% of all calves (2,334) were treated as a primary result of bovine respiratory disease (BRD)
- Sick cattle lost three to four times more dollars from inferior quality grade than were returned for lower yield grade
- Mortality rate was 100 times higher for cattle treated twice compared to non-treated cattle
In a survey of feedlot consultant veterinarians (Terrell, 2012), the predictive factors for BRD morbidity and mortality were listed in order of importance:
- Cattle Health Risk.
- Weather patterns.
- Labor quality and availability.
- Receiving period nutrition.
- Prevention programs utilized, such as vaccination, metaphylaxis and treatment protocols.