Combat Respiratory Disease with Focus on Boosting Efficient Feed Nutrition

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Article | 25.09.2021
Jay W. Johnson

It was Benjamin Franklin who once quipped, "nothing in this world is certain except for death and taxes." Today, that still rings fairly true, but cattle feeders might add a third item to the list - respiratory issues after receiving feeder calves. 

"Shipping calves puts stress on them, and it is common to have a respiratory outbreak about 10 days after they arrive at the feedyard," points out Jay Wade Johnson PhD, Technical Service Nutritionist for the U.S. Cattle Business Unit of global pharmaceutical company Huvepharma.

Johnson explains that respiratory issues - whether occuring at the farm of origin or after shipping - are typically a sign that the calf's immune system is overwhelmed. 

But the good news is cattle producers do not have to sit back and accept that fate. "If producers are proactive instead of reactive, we can mitigate respiratory health challenges," says Johnson.

He suggests the key remedy is ensuring calves are receiving high nutrition prior to high stress events. "With a high level of nutrition, the animal's immune system is allowed to fully function, and vaccines can work effectively," Johnson explains. 

Toward this goal, Johnson advises inclusion of the ionophore monensin in calf diets. He explains that monensin has FDA approval to be fed to calves for the prevention and control of coccidiosis, to be fed to growing cattle on pasture or in dry lot for increased rate of weight gain and for the prevention and control of coccidiosis; and to be fed to cattle in confinement for slaughter for improved feed efficiency and the prevention and control of coccidiosis due to the parasites Eimeria bovis and Eimeria zuernii

"The bottom line is that monensin helps improve the efficiency of the animal so the nutrients they are consuming help the immune system to function better," concludes Johnson. And, it is a tactic that may help keep respiratory issues at bay. 

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