Vaccinating for bovine respiratory disease

Research: News Roundup from the November 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Larger carcass weights and falling live cattle futures made way for lower fed cattle prices by mid-October.

While bovine respiratory disease is often thought of as a feedlot problem, it’s also the most common cause of death for nursing calves older than three weeks, notes the Beef Cattle Research Council’s blog.

Several studies have shown bovine respiratory disease (BRD) peaks seasonally. For example, a Nebraska study that looked at several years of data on 110,000 calves found a peak from birth to 20 days and a second peak at 70 to 100 days of age.

By tracking BRD over a 20-year period, the USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center found the annual disease incidence ranged from three per cent to 24 per cent, with an annual average of 11 per cent.

The USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center pegged the BRD mortality rate of pre-weaned calves at 13 per cent. Other studies have shown that surviving calves may weigh 36 lbs. less than healthy herd mates.

Dr. Philip Griebel, a professor and research chair with the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health, found a way to vaccinate young animals without interference from maternal antibodies.That strategy involves an intranasal vaccine at three to six weeks, followed by a booster at five to six months. Read more on the council’s blog at

For producers planning to retain ownership of calves or buy feeder cattle, the Beef Cattle Research Council has a new BRD vaccination cost-benefit calculator. It compares the cost of feeding cattle vaccinated for BRD to feeding unvaccinated cattle. It itemizes costs such as death loss, treatment costs and performance losses. Find the calculator online at the Beef Cattle Research Council website.

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