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Managing BRD in High-Risk Cattle

Combine a veterinarian-developed treatment plan with proper management to reduce illness

MADISON, N.J. — April 12, 2011 — Dr. Doug Hilbig, DVM, of Lakin, Kan., quickly recognizes cattle at high risk for bovine respiratory disease (BRD), and he can simply tell by their appearance that trouble is brewing.

“With these cattle, you can tell by their appearance when they arrive or through history that they’re going to be high-risk cattle,” Dr. Hilbig says. “High-risk cattle often also have severe nutritional or health challenges. You can tell when they get off the truck.”

To head off BRD before it starts, Dr. Hilbig works with his producers to develop a plan and then helps train everyone on the operation in advance of the arrival of high-risk cattle — helping ensure cattle are healthy and that the operation is maximizing its time.

First, Dr. Hilbig selects an antibiotic that can be administered on arrival and lasts for an extended period of time to help control BRD early. For high-risk cattle that require treatment, he selects a second product that lasts for at least seven days. The two-pronged approach — extended control and treatment — helps minimize handling and stress on the animals, and allows cattle to get to their pens as soon as possible and start adjusting to the new environment.

Selecting an antibiotic that lasts for an extended period can be a change for some cattle operations’ staff, but Dr. Hilbig combines his protocol recommendations with on-operation training for pen riders.

“They’re used to putting them in their pens and then pulling three days later,” Dr. Hilbig says. “Typically, it’s hard to have them not want to pull cattle. It takes cattle a week to acclimate to a feedyard situation. If they’ve had a history of high morbidity and mortality, cowboys definitely want to pull them at three days. But, once they’ve waited longer, they see that it works.”

Not all antibiotics have been shown to provide therapy for an extended period and have the efficacy needed to experience labor savings, says J.P. Pollreisz, DVM, with Pfizer Animal Health Veterinary Operations.

“Veterinarians and producers are benefitting from the efficacy combined with the long duration of therapy to experience the labor savings and free up that time they would have spent pulling and re-treating sick cattle,” Dr. Pollreisz says.

For Dr. Hilbig, those products are DRAXXIN® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution for control of BRD in cattle at high risk of developing BRD followed by treatment with EXCEDE® (ceftiofur crystalline free acid) Sterile Suspension for those requiring treatment. In the operations with which Dr. Hilbig works, and in research, DRAXXIN is proven to be effective for seven to 14 days. For cattle needing an additional treatment, Dr. Hilbig selects EXCEDE, which provides seven days of therapy.

“The biggest thing is it allows us to bring in more cattle,” Dr. Hilbig says. “You can do this with other antibiotics, but it still may not work quite as well. DRAXXIN followed by EXCEDE has allowed the operations I work with to treat cattle and take them back home and have fewer problems. It cuts numbers of cattle in the hospital pen, work and spread of disease in the hospital. The hospital pen doesn’t make you money — feeding pens do.”

Dr. Pollreisz notes that training employees not to pull cattle into the hospital pen for additional treatments can be a mindset change, but one that ultimately frees up time for the entire operation’s benefit.

“With the producers I’ve talked to, the labor savings are really undervalued until they experience it; then they are pleased,” Dr. Pollreisz says. “It can be hard for anyone to adjust their way of thinking.”

For Dr. Hilbig and his clients, freeing up labor and reducing the number of cattle in the hospital pen has ultimately helped increase the amount of cattle they can work with at a time.

“To allow managers to take more cattle in and not overload the hospital — that’s a big deal,” he says. “That’s probably the biggest advantage: To get the yard full without that reaction. This allows producers to buy cattle because the price is right. The profit is higher if they buy cattle at a good price, no matter what the health protocol is.”

Important Safety Information: Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. A pre-slaughter withdrawal time has not been determined for pre-ruminating calves. Effects on reproductive performance, pregnancy and lactation have not been determined. DRAXXIN has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days.

Important Safety Information: As with all drugs, the use of EXCEDE is contraindicated in animals with known allergy to ceftiofur or to the ß-lactam group (penicillins and cephalosporins) of antimicrobials. Though safe in cattle when properly administered, inadvertent intra-arterial injection is possible and fatal. EXCEDE has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 13 days in cattle. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal.