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Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex (BRDC)/ Shipping Fever

BRDC, also known as shipping fever (pneumonia), can be detrimental to young calves. Recognizing and treating this disease early on is essential both for the economic well being of the cattle owner and the animal’s health. Keep reading to learn more about Bovine Respiratory Disease and how to identify, treat and prevent this disease from negatively impacting your cattle.

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What Is Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex?

BRDC develops due to a combination of interactions between host factors, pathogens and environmental factors. For instance, weaning, commingling, dust, bad weather, crowding, inadequate ventilation and transportation all embody stressors that negatively affect your cattle’s immune system. Furthermore, certain conditions like overcrowding increase the rate of transmission — the closer together your cattle are, the more likely infectious agents are to spread among your animals.

How to Identify Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex

The most common tell-tale signs that BRDC may be impacting your cattle are:

  • Lack of Appetite: Sick calves don’t eat. Pay close attention to when your animals appear to be going off their feed.
  • Fever: Typically, sick calves have fevers between 104 and 108°F. To obtain an accurate temperature reading, use a thermometer to take the calf’s temperature before 10 a.m.
  • Depression: Calves demonstrating depression will exhibit a bowed back, drooping ears and an extended head. They will also isolate themselves from other cattle.
  • Rapid, Shallow or Labored Breathing: Respiratory issues, especially in calves, can cause permanent lung damage or death. If you notice abnormal breathing, consult your veterinarian immediately to perform an examination and develop a treatment plan.
  • Coughing: BRD causes pain in the lungs and airways which typically leads to a slight cough. If the disease develops further, it may cause loud coughing or “honking” and treatment may be difficult.
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What are the Dangers of BRDC?

As with humans, pneumonia (BRD) is a serious illness that can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. The key to ensuring BRD does not cause damage to your herd is early detection and early intervention. If your cattle are exhibiting any of the symptoms above, it is imperative that you act fast and develop a treatment plan to minimize the chances of it spreading to the rest of the herd or causing long-term side effects. BRD continues to plague the US beef and dairy industries leading to morbidity, mortality, loss of performance and a decrease in the quality and health of the animal.

What are the Side Effects of BRDC?

In addition to the symptoms listed above, there are short and long-term side effects of this disease. Identifying and treating BRD as quickly as possible is critical for saving you time and money as this disease can negatively impact an animal’s productivity and health for the rest of its life.

Short-Term Side Effects of BRDC

  • Lung damage
  • Lost productivity
  • Inflammation
  • Death (If not treated quickly)

Long-Term Side Effects of BRDC

  • Stunted growth
  • Poor reproductive performance
  • Lessened milk production
  • Permanent lung damage (which can lead to additional respiratory issues later in life)

How to Treat Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex

Developing a treatment protocol is essential to the survival and recovery of your sick calf. There are three main BRDC care questions to ask yourself as you prepare to treat your animals.

1. When Should I Treat My Sick Calf?

To help prevent this disease from getting worse, monitor your calves constantly and treat them immediately. If you notice any of the above signs be sure to check the calf’s temperature and listen for labored breathing patterns to confirm the diagnosis.

2. What Antibiotics Are Best?

Many options are on the market today that treat BRDC such as Micotil®, Nuflor®, Baytril 100®, Naxcel®, Excenel®, and Adspec®. Of course, these may not be 100 percent effective for eliminating BRDC from your herd, however, they should be able to assist in treating BRDC. Consult with your veterinarian prior to using any antibiotic treatment and to discuss an effective BRD vaccination program for your herd.

3. Other Than Antibiotics, Are There Any Other Treatment Methods?

It’s important to ensure that your cattle continue to eat and drink; this is key to helping them fight off disease.  Making sure calves devel0p strong immune systems from the beginning and reducing their exposure to stressful conditions can also improve their chances of fending off BRDC.

How to Prevent Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex

Our number one prevention protocol tip is to pay close attention to your cow’s behavior. If you notice one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, and you act fast, you may be able to avoid the total onset of BRDC. You can also decrease the likelihood of your herd feeling stressed by providing well-ventilated housing, spacious holding pens and clean living conditions.

How Our Products Can Help

CattlActive® is a preventative treatment that neutralizes stomach acid and encourages feed and water consumption. Once a cow begins to eat again and drink, the healing of the rumen and intestines can begin.

Here’s how it works: When a cow starts to experience stress, whether it’s through environmental issues — extreme heat or cold, poor living conditions, handling, or nutritional imbalances/deficiencies, they often experience a shift in ruminal pH. This occurrence triggers a decline in their feed and water intake, furthering the acidity in the rumen — the cow’s first stomach chamber — which further discourages consumption. As the “good” bacteria begin to die off, they release toxins, thereby creating even more acid. This then leads to “leaky gut syndrome” and a weaker immune system.

CattlActive® is useful for practitioners, producers and growers. If you have any questions, contact us today!

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