In the feedyard, questions arise daily concerning medication programs for respiratory disease. It’s the single biggest disease problem.
When faced with a history of no response to medication, we spend very little time on the actual medications. The more important consideration is determining management procedures aimed at prevention and treatment of diseased cattle.
Following are some rules of treatment that need to be observed when evaluating a
feedyard health program. They also are good guidelines when training new personnel to pull and treat sick cattle.
Pull Sick Animals Early
The first and foremost rule of treatment is to pull sick animals early, pull appropriately and treat aggressively.
If sick animals are not pulled from the pen before respiratory disease becomes an advanced problem, medication response will generally be very poor.
Good pen riders are able to spot animals just as they are breaking with pneumonia. This corresponds to the latter stages of the incubation period of disease and is before the animal actually shows clinical signs. It takes a certain eye to be a good pen rider; some
cowboys seem to have it instinctively; others have developed it over the years.
Pull Animals Properly
Animals must be pulled for sickness appropriately. If sick animals are not pulled properly, they will not get the hospital care they need, hospital pens will become needlessly overcrowded, and the doctor crew will become overworked.
Heavy pulls do not always coincide with proper pulls. Sometimes, heavy pulls from a pen occur, leaving some sick animals and pulling some with no obvious signs of illness. If heavy pulls occur in a pen (greater than 25%), then steps should be taken toward
What does treating aggressively mean? It means that when an animal is pulled initially for respiratory disease, it is treated with strong therapeutic agents (antibiotics) that will stop pneumonia at its earliest stages, and not allow further progression of the disease
process. This will effectively decrease total treatment days, decrease the number of retreatments and, of course, prevent high death losses.
With good therapeutic agents and supportive care, sick animals will not have to be rested between treatments, if additional treatment is deemed necessary. Antibiotics are stressful on the animal’s system, so supportive measures are used to stabilize the adverse changes that occur following treatment, as well as treat the disease.
Supportive care includes such drugs as (1) B-complex vitamins, to stimulate the appetite and replenish body loss, (2) antihistamines to open swollen, narrowed airways, and
(3) electrolytes to replace body water loss as well as body electrolyte loss.
The primary objective of supportive care is to counteract the serious side effects of disease and subsequent changes referable to antibiotic usage. Supportive care also includes nutritional support in the form of fresh hay and high-energy rations, plus hospital
management aimed at prevention of overcrowding and further stress.
All drugs used in beef cattle, including antibiotics and supportive medications, have a specific purpose and use. Your consulting veterinarian is the best source of information on proper use of these drugs. The feedyard health crew must be well versed on the
proper use of drugs because a drug used improperly is sometimes worse than no medication at all.
Visual inspection of sick animals in the hospital is absolutely necessary. Occasionally feedyard personnel will look at the thermometer and forget to look at the animal.
To prevent this oversight, all animals should be given a severity code, such as severely sick, moderately sick or mildly sick. This simple system encourages the health crew to assign a uniform code to the sickness of all animals.
This coding system allows sequential assessment of sick pulls and progress through the hospital treatment program. Secondary benefits of this system allow various persons to treat the animal on subsequent days and assess response to treatment. Also, it allows assessment of sick animal pulling.
If you are using an antibiotic that requires daily administration, treatment of sick animals should be continued for at least three successive days. This can be accomplished with one shot or administration or with three successive days of treatment. In the end, this will decrease the treatments and the pen deaths following treatment.
Research and experience has shown that only one or two days of treatment has detrimental side effects. Antibiotics can be changed during these three-day periods, but not after only one day of treatment.
Alternate routes of administration or increased dosages can be used on the second day of treatment when added response is needed on this treatment day. If treatment response is inadequate after two days of therapy, then alternate treatments or increased dosages should be considered.
You never want to give up on the treatment of an animal, but you should realize the limitations of antibiotic therapy and strike a happy median between cost-benefit and continued treatment. It is very discouraging to treat an animal day after day, only to have it die after an extended treatment period.
As a general rule, treatment of a sick animal for six continuous days or three treatments will constitute adequate treatment. Continued treatment often will result in a chronically sick animal or a dead animal.
The last rule of treatment is the keeping of clear, concise and accurate records. The feedyard runs on paperwork. Because of the large numbers of cattle that any feedyard handles and many sick animals that are treated, records are absolutely essential. These records will not only provide bookkeeping services, but will allow you to assess treatment response. Records must be (a) easy to fill out, (b) supply the appropriate information, and (c) be easily compiled for further evaluation.
These rules are formulated from sound medical practice and experience. Some of them vary depending on your particular antibiotic or medication program. But they will, in most cases, result in a successful medication program.