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Calves from vaccinated dams did better in the feedlot

Canadian study looked at protection from respiratory and viral diseases

A uniquely Canadian study provides the first comprehensive look at feedlot health outcomes for calves from dams vaccinated before conception with Express FP.

Dr. Tye Perrett, a managing partner with Feedlot Health Management Services, Okotoks, Alta., oversaw the project that reviewed Canadian feedlot records on 1.4 million calves born between 2007 and 2014 to compare health outcomes of Express-Verified (EV) calves to those of non-EV calves with similar health-risk profiles.

Express-Verified calves were those born to cows and heifers vaccinated before breeding with one of the eligible Express FP products given according to label directions. Veterinarians provide a certificate of purchase to producers, who then Express-verify the calves by entering the certificate number when age verifying the calves in the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s (CCIA) age-verification database.

Express FP vaccines protect against respiratory and reproductive viral diseases, the main ones being BVD types 1 and 2, IBR, PI3 and BRSV. Most importantly from a calf-health perspective, the vaccines protect the fetus from internalizing the BVD virus and being born a persistently infected (PI) animal that spreads prolific amounts of the virus for as long as it lives.

The company’s Express-Verified BVD PI guarantee still stands in Canada. It will pay fair-market value plus the cost of testing for any BVD PI from a dam properly vaccinated with one of the appropriate Express FP products. The guarantee is transferable to a new owner because of the program’s tracking feature with the tie to individual animal radio-frequency identification (RFID) numbers.

Feedlot Health’s third-party review was conducted for Boehringer Ingelheim to dig for answers to questions often asked by feedlot operators. They wonder whether EV calves on the whole actually do better than calves with unknown mother-cow vaccination histories and, if so, could those non-EV calves cancel out the EV health advantage when the calves are penned together.

“We are the only company that has the ability to do this type of research and it is because of the CCIA age-verification database, Feedlot Health Management Services’ extensive database, and our Express-Verified program that gives us the ability to follow calves through to the feedlot,” says Boehringer Ingelheim Canada sales manager Lee Irvine at Red Deer, Alta.

Boehringer Ingelheim provided the RFID tag numbers for all EV calves in its database to cross reference with Feedlot Health’s database.

Perrett explains that the Feedlot Health database is a proprietary software program for collecting health and management data on individual animals to help feedlot clients manage animal health. Algorithms based on several risk factors for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) complex automatically assign a BRD-risk category at the time animals enter a feedlot. Feedlot Health’s protocols for health management are then connected to these risk categories.

The accompanying table (with bolded P values highlighting significant differences) indicates that EV calves at high risk for BRD had consistently lower pull rates (sickness), lower death loss from all causes, and lower death loss from BRD than non-EV calves in the same pen and than non-EV calves in pens without EV calves.

Express-Verified calves at low risk for BRD were less likely to get sick and less likely to die from BRD or any other cause than non-EV calves in pens without EV calves.

There were no detectable animal-health improvements in EV calves at medium risk for BRD compared to the other groups. Perrett says this could be because of greater variation in individual health risk within this category that either nullifies or makes it difficult to detect potential differences in animal-health outcomes.

The bottom line is that even though 90 per cent of the pens with EV calves had less than four per cent EV calves in the group, there were improved animal-health outcomes for the high-risk EV calves as well as their non-EV pen mates.

“From first principles, a breeding-herd vaccination program should result in healthier calves at the feedlot, but in the course of commercial trade, calves are transported and commingled with other calves of unknown breeding-herd vaccination status at the auction and/or feedlot, which can make it very difficult to observe any effect of breeding-herd vaccination on health outcomes at the feedlot, Perrett explains.

“To our knowledge, this retrospective analysis is the first to quantify statistically significant differences in animal-health outcomes at the feedlot from calves that were verified to be from cows that received pre-breeding vaccinations.”

For more information about this study contact Lee Irvine at 403-671-4878.

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