Can Your Operation Afford to Pay for Sick Days?

Early BRD Intervention Helps Replacement Heifers Reach Their Potential

Dairy producers could potentially be losing long-term performance and returns if Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is not addressed quickly. That’s because BRD can have a significant impact on weight gain, which can delay a heifer’s introduction into the milkstream.1 In fact, just one health challenge can increase calving age by 0.21 months.2

“Every day an animal is sick can push back its first calving,” says Tom Van Dyke, DVM, manager of Large Animal Veterinary Services, Merial. “This increases the cost of raising the heifer into production and, because it’s in the milkstream fewer total days, can decrease lifetime productivity.”

When operators combine post-weaning feeding and rearing costs of $2 per every additional day and milking losses of two to 10 gallons daily, that can really add up.2,3 But Van Dyke says producers can take steps to help eliminate paying for “sick days” on their operation.

“The first goal should always be prevention, especially during times of stress,” says Van Dyke. He recommends using good quality colostrum in the first 24 hours after weaning and following that with nutrition appropriate for the calf’s age to help its ability to fight disease. He adds that working with a veterinarian to develop a vaccination protocol against known BRD pathogens prior to grouping and breeding can also play a big role in prevention.

Next, detecting sick calves early is key to improving outcomes. “Don’t wait until they start coughing,” says Van Dyke. “Observe freshly weaned and stressed animals frequently for the first clinical signs, including depression, reduced feed intake, rapid breathing and raised temperature.”

When a calf is diagnosed with BRD, dairy managers can help limit losses by using a rapid response antimicrobial.

“When the lungs are compromised, it becomes a limiting factor in the animal reaching its genetic potential,” says Van Dyke. “Because of the swift progression of the disease, you need a fast-acting treatment to give cattle the best chance at recovering with minimal lung scarring.”

ZACTRAN® (gamithromycin) is approved for treatment of BRD associated with four of the most common causes: Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni and Mycoplasma bovis.4

The active ingredient in ZACTRAN, gamithromycin, has a novel molecular structure that allows it to build up in regions where immune cells reside.4,5 Although clinical relevance has not been determined, these cells carry ZACTRAN directly to the site of infection – the lungs – in just 30 minutes.4,5,6

In field trials, clinically ill cattle given ZACTRAN showed a visible improvement within 24 hours, including fever reduction in a majority of animals.7,8

“Once an animal is sick, respiratory disease can rapidly spread the disease to others,” says Van Dyke. To decrease nose-to-nose transmission, he recommends housing calves and heifers in cross-ventilated barns or individual hutches and removing sick animals to help prevent spread.

“To control BRD, consider metaphylactic treatment with ZACTRAN for stressed and exposed calves and heifers,” says Van Dyke. In a study, ZACTRAN controlled BRD in at-risk cattle for 10 days.9

Bovine respiratory disease is the single largest cause of death in weaned heifers and the second most common cause in pre-weaned calves.10 Producers should work with their veterinarian and nutritionist to develop vaccination, proper nutrition and stress-minimizing protocols for optimal animal performance. When stress can’t be avoided, ZACTRAN can help dairy managers put a stop to paying for unproductive sick days.

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

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 ais a registered trademark of Merial. ©2014 Merial Limited, Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. RUMIOTD1434 (06/14)

1 Van Der Fels-Klerx HJ, Martin SW, Nielen M, Huirne RBM. Effects on productivity and risk factors of Bovine Respiratory Disease in dairy heifers; a review for the Netherlands. Neth J Agr Sci. 2002;50:27-45.

2 Doering-Resch H., Kohls D. Raising healthy replacement heifers. Progressive Dairyman. Available at Accessed June 10, 2014.

3 Stuttgen S, Kohlman T, Hoffman P, Zwald A. There’s nothing equal when raising heifers. Hoards Dairyman. Available at Accessed June 10, 2014.

4 ZACTRAN product label.

5 Huang RA, Letendre LT, Banav N, et al. Pharmacokinetics of gamithromycin in cattle with comparison of plasma and lung tissue concentrations and plasma antibacterial activity. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2010;33(3):227-237.

6 Giguere S, Huang R, Malinski TJ, et al. Disposition of gamithromycin in plasma, pulmonary epithelial lining fluid, bronchoalveolar cells and lung tissue in cattle. Am J Vet Res. 2011;72(3):326-330.

7 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.

8 Data on file at Merial.

9 Lechtenberg K, Daniels CS, Royer GC, et al. Field efficacy study of gamithromycin for the control of bovine respiratory disease in cattle at high risk of developing the disease. Intern J Appl Res Vet Med. 2011;9(2):189-197.

10Heifer Calf Health and Management Practices on U.S. Dairy Operations, 2007. USDA APHIS. Published January 2010.

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