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2. Cow-calf BRD

Bovine Respiratory Disease: Cow-Calf Operation

The veterinary office:

Louis Anderson, DVM, specializing in food animal veterinary medicine, answers the telephone. Pat Johnson, a cow-calf producer, is requesting assistance with her cattle.  Dr. Anderson tells Pat he is on his way.

The Johnson place:

The Johnson farm is a small cow-calf operation. Pat Johnson has a mix of about 85 crossbred and purebred cows.  The cows usually calve in April and May with some stragglers calving in June.  Pat usually sells her calves in the fall to one of two nearby feedlots, but now the feedlots are reluctant to give her a good price for her calves. They claim that too many of them get BRD once they get to the feedlot.  This requires antibiotic treatment and the cattle frequently do not gain weight as fast or efficiently as those that stay healthy.  Having just read in the "Farmers Daily Journal" that BRD (shipping fever) is caused by bacteria, Pat wants a prescription for the latest antibiotic to treat all her feeder calves before she sells them to the feedlot.

Picture of Doc and Pete talking - with cattle in background:

Pat says, “The feedlot says that about a third* of my cattle need antibiotics for BRD once they get to the feedlot.  When they treat a cow for BRD, the antibiotic only costs them about $31.  If I treat them with antibiotics before they go to the feedlot, maybe I can prevent this BRD.”

*  John W. McNeill, Extension Animal Science, Texas A&M University.  Profits and Carcass Quality.

Let’s dispel some of Pat’s misconceptions.  The cost of medicines is only a fraction of the costs incurred when an animal gets BRD.  One of the best and biggest studies was done in Texas*  They found that about 26% of cattle get BRD while at feedlots.  The cost of the medication to treat sick animals was estimated at about $31 per animal.  Other costs associated with BRD include and increased death loss, and increased feed cost per weight gained and a lower quality grade (more carcasses grading as "standard" and "select" rather than as "choice") compared with health cattle.  All these costs added together showed that healthy steers had a $93 more favorable economic return compared to steers with BRD that required antibiotic treatment.



*  John W. McNeill, Extension Animal Science, Texas A&M University.  Profits and Carcass Quality.


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