BRD Identification and Treatment

Identifying and Treating BRD Can Help Stockers Reach Their Potential

Beef producers could potentially be losing money if Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is not diagnosed and addressed quickly. That’s because BRD can have a significant impact on lifetime performance and weight gain.

“Unchecked, BRD can cause permanent lung damage, decreasing the animal’s efficiency,” says Marc Campbell, DVM, Large Animal Veterinary Services, Merial. “This limits its ability to reach its genetic potential and increases the overall cost of raising it to closeout.”

Because of the swift progression of the disease, early identification and intervention with a fast-acting antimicrobial gives the animal the best chance at recovering with limited lung damage. Campbell says there are steps producers can take to help get ahead of BRD.

First, know the clinical signs. Cattle that are a little slow or lethargic, have a snotty nose or look weak should be pulled. Also, cattle should be observed closely at feeding. Those lacking appetite should also be brought up for evaluation.

“Many of the signs can be subtle,” says Campbell. “So visual checks should be done by experienced personnel.” Campbell recommends a minimum of two checks per day for 30-45 days for new arrivals and at-risk cattle. By checking twice a day, producers can get ahead of the condition by as much as 12 hours, which can have a significant impact on success rates.

While taking an animal’s temperature can be helpful in identifying BRD, it’s not as cut and dry as simply reading a thermometer and diagnosing the disease.

“While the average is 101 degrees, that may not be normal for a particular calf,” notes Campbell. “In some animals, a temperature as low as 102 degrees can be a sign of fever. Also, fevers can come and go.” He says that in many cases, clinical signs can be more important in diagnosis than actual fever.

When BRD is diagnosed, he recommends giving them a proven antimicrobial that offers a rapid response, such as ZACTRAN® (gamithromycin). In field trials, clinically ill cattle treated with ZACTRAN showed a visible improvement within 24 hours.1 And to give the drug a chance to help the immune system, it’s important to allow a few days before making further treatment decisions.

“With antimicrobial use, it’s very important to give the correct dose,” says Campbell. “An overdose is a waste of money, but underdosing can deliver a poor result.” Weighing the individual calf is the best option, but if using an average weight, producers should look at the animal’s size in comparison to other animals in the group and adjust according to help ensure a therapeutic dose.

He notes that a lot of research goes into establishing a recommended dose. If producers are underdosing because a product’s too expensive, he recommends using a more cost-effective product like ZACTRAN.

“The next part is the hardest for many producers,” says Campbell. “Giving the product time to work can be hard to do when you have a sick animal.”

“Even with products like ZACTRAN that show a rapid response, animals won’t be ‘cured’ in just a few hours,” says Campbell. “Producers need to give the antimicrobial and the animal’s immune system a chance to do its job.” He recommends working with your veterinarian to establish a post-treatment interval in which clinical signs are closely monitored over a few days before determining if retreatment is necessary.

“BRD costs producers up to $900 million annually.2 The first goal should always be prevention,” says Campbell. He recommends preconditioning and sourcing preconditioned cattle. He adds that working with a veterinarian to develop vaccination protocols against known BRD pathogens can also play a big role in prevention.

Even with the best management, some animals will get sick. Treating with ZACTRAN can help producers manage BRD so cattle can reach their genetic potential.

Producers can learn more about ZACTRAN by contacting their local Merial sales representative or visiting, where they can watch educational videos.

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.

About Merial
Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 6,200 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide with close to €2 billion of sales in 2013. Merial is a Sanofi company. For more information, please see

® ZACTRAN is a registered trademark of Merial. ©2014 Merial Limited, Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. RUMIOTD1449 (08/14)

1 Sifferman RL, Wolff WA, Holste JE, et al. Field efficacy evaluation of gamithromycin for treatment of bovine respiratory disease in cattle at feedlots. Intern J Appl Res Vet Med. 2011;9(2):171-180.

2 Science Daily. Bovine Respiratory Disease: New Research to Tackle Major Concern for Cattle Industry. March 2010. Accessed February 22, 2012.

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