Identifying Bovine Respiratory Disease Pathogens on the Farm

A little knowledge can help protect your big investment

With Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) costing producers between $500 and $900 million annually,1-4 identifying and then managing potential BRD pathogens on their properties can be an effective first step in helping defray those losses.

“When producers don’t know what type of pathogen they are dealing with, they have to make assumptions and may or may not be addressing the cause of the problem,” says Tom Van Dyke, DVM, veterinary technical services, Merial. “When producers treat or try to manage blindly, they won’t necessarily achieve the kind of results they could with an approach based on knowledge.”

Van Dyke recommends incorporating a system of tracking, in writing, the variables related to animals displaying signs of BRD. Those clinical signs include, but are not limited to: quick or labored breathing, gaunt appearance, nasal discharge, rough hair coat, dry muzzle and depression.5 Variables to track include age, weight, number of days of clinical signs, antibiotics used to treat and results of laboratory testing.

“Laboratory testing is really important when it comes to identifying and then managing the pathogens on the property,” says Van Dyke. “Producers need to understand the problem in order to treat it effectively. Testing is available for sick animals via nasal swabs and for animals that have died, tissue samples can be taken from the lungs or bronchial lymph nodes.”

Van Dyke suggests producers continuously monitor pathogens on their properties through testing and creating a base of historical information in the process. Based on the results of those tests, producers can determine the pathogens on their properties and develop a treatment protocol based on those pathogens.

Because BRD can take a toll on the health of animals quickly, a fast-acting antibiotic is a good choice. The antimicrobial ZACTRAN® (gamithromycin) has been proven to generate a 24-hour rapid response in treatment field trials in clinically ill cattle.1 Besides tracking pathogens, recording information to identify trends and treating with an effective antibiotic, Van Dyke has these other suggestions to help avoid BRD:

  • Implement an immunization program to help keep herds healthy and productive, and 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.
  • Feed an adequate amount of colostrum to calves within 12 hours of birth.

“All these measures combined should help producers minimize the potential losses that can come about as a result of BRD,” says Van Dyke.

ZACTRAN is a prescription product and is administered subcutaneously (SC) at a dose of 2 mL/110lbs.7

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 5,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2012 sales were $2.8 billion. Merial is a Sanofi company. For more information, please see

®MERIAL and ZACTRAN are registered trademarks of Merial. ©2013 Merial Limited, Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. RUMIOTD1347 (10/13)

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 Lechtenberg K, Daniles 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.

3 Science Daily. Bovine Respiratory Disease: New Research to Tackle Major Concern for Cattle Industry. March 2010.

4 Schneider MJ, Tait RG, Jr., Busby WD, Reecy JM. An evaluation of bovine respiratory disease complex in feedlot cattle: Impact on performance and carcass traits using treatment records and lung lesion scores. J Anim Sci. 2009;87:1821-1827.

5 Bagley CV, Bovine Respiratory Disease, Utah State University Cooperative Extension, 1997;4:1-4.

6 ZACTRAN product label approved 2012.

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