BRD: What producers need to know |

BRD: What producers need to know

Beef and dairy producers know that healthier cattle mean better returns for their bottom line. Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the most common disease among feedlot cattle in the United States, accounting for approximately 75 percent of feedlot morbidity and 50 to 70 percent of all feedlot deaths. It’s estimated that BRD costs producers up to $900 million annually.1

“BRD is probably the biggest health risk producers face,” says Tom Van Dyke, DVM, veterinary technical services, Merial. “Finding ways to manage the disease is critical not just to health care, but also to developing and maintaining a profitable operation.”

By understanding BRD, producers can better manage their herd’s health. Van Dyke offers the following to help producers better understand BRD:

Q: What is BRD?

A: BRD usually begins with a viral infection such as Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis or “red nose” that causes calves’ natural defense mechanisms in the nose and trachea to break down and allow bacteria to move into the lungs and colonize.2 Bovine Viral Diarrhea, which can suppress the immune system in calves, makes the animals more vulnerable to infection.3 Consequently, the bacterial factor invades and infects the animals’ lungs. The most common bacterial invaders are Mannheimia or Pasteurella that release harmful chemicals known as leukotoxins. Leukotoxins destroy the white blood cells that fight the infection. Once destroyed, the white blood cells spill out many toxic chemicals that can cause fever as well as inflammation and damage to the lungs.

Q: What causes BRD?

A: There are many compounding factors pertaining to BRD that can increase or decrease the likelihood of the occurrence. Commingling, shipping, large temperature fluctuations, dust, rain and many other factors are difficult or almost impossible to control.4

Q: What cattle are at risk for BRD?

A: BRD is insidious and can strike cattle of any age at any time, although we usually consider it a disease of stocker or feeder cattle.5

Q: What are the symptoms of BRD?

A: Clinical signs include, but are not limited to:

Rapid or labored breathing

Gaunt appearance

Nasal discharge

Rough hair coat

Dry muzzle


Q: How can a producer prevent BRD?

A: Here are some tips I recommend:

Implement an immunization program to help keep herds healthy and productive, and to help protect against bacterial pneumonia caused by Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida.

Vaccinate prior to times of stress, such as weaning or transport.

Provide adequate housing and ventilation to help prevent the spread of disease.

Supply proper hydration and nutrition.

Q: How can a producer manage BRD?

A: Use a fast-acting, antimicrobial such as ZACTRAN® (gamithromycin), which has been proven to generate a 24-hour rapid response in treatment field trials in clinically ill cattle.7 Other benefits of ZACTRAN, as determined in BRD field trials, include:

In treatment trials, the majority of clinically ill cattle treated with ZACTRAN recovered and stayed healthy for the 10-day study.

In control trials, the majority of lightweight, high-risk cattle treated with ZACTRAN stayed healthy for the 10-day study.

ZACTRAN IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: For use in cattle only. Do not treat cattle within 35 days of slaughter. Because a discard time in milk has not been established, do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older, or in calves to be processed for veal. The effects of ZACTRAN on bovine reproductive performance, pregnancy and lactation have not been determined.