Cattle Information Network (CIN) was a central feedlot information management system. Briefly, it took daily operating data from participating feed yards, pooled and analyzed the data each evening. The next morning, the feed yard manager could see how his pens were performing relative to a regional benchmark. They could see problems developing in real-time. You can find pieces, parts and elements of that system incorporated into current systems today.

Dr. Crain sold CIN to eMerge Interactive in January of 1999 at the front end of that company’s short-lived heyday. As part of the deal, he went to work for eMerge, helping flesh out a visionary array of products and services that was to serve as a fulcrum to vertical industry cooperation and integration. In February of 2000, he was among a small cadre of eMerge folks ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ as eMerge went public, raising a total of $235 million.

CIN represented Dr. Crain’s third patent. He filed for his first patent when he was a freshman in vet school. It was a mechanical patent for the oil field, where he was working outside of class to help pay for his education.

Incidentally, Dr. Crain received that first patent when he was a junior. He secured financing and sunk a wad into developing the patent into saleable equipment—about the time oil crashed in 1984.

“Failure is just a small success,” Dr. Crain says. “You realize you won’t do that again. I’m not going to win them all. Failure isn’t a measure of success. Success is how many failures can you have but continue to move ahead positively.”

Real-Time Pathogen Surveillance

Real-time pathogen surveillance grew from the aforementioned BVD example. Working with Texas Vet Lab (TVL) based at San Angelo, Texas, Dr. Crain and Dr. McDonald discovered the cause of the late-day mortality in question was BVDV subtype 1b, a strain unaccounted for in the vaccines they were using. So, CHMN and TVL developed an autogenous vaccine. Ultimately, CHMN formed a coalition of likeminded veterinarians—Professional Veterinary Associates (PVA)—that collect and submit BVDV samples to a national databank. Through a process called antigenic cartography, PVA monitors the mutation of specific BVDV strains showing up in member yards and then develops autogenous vaccines to battle specific bugs.

Taking it a step further, CHMN and TVL developed a comprehensive, integrated pathogen surveillance protocol that hinges upon real-time diagnostic testing and reporting.

Using this approach, BVDV surveillance demonstrated an 80 percent reduction in BVDV-related disease and illness over the next two years in CHMN client yards, along with a corresponding reduction in death loss and morbidity.

“The value we are finding in continuous surveillance is that besides monitoring pathogens and sensitivity patterns in the deads, we have a reference point that is instructive on the likely pathogens and sensitivity patterns of other cattle arriving in the same time frame,” Dr. Crain says.

VeriPrime Food Safety Cooperative

VeriPrime Food Safety Cooperative (VPFSC) is a revolutionary concept that has been glacially slow when it comes to gaining traction. Simplistically, it is a member owned federation of cooperatives that decides how to improve beef safety preharvest, and pays members to do it. Consider E. coli interventions that can be applied at the feedlot and ranch, for example. Most everyone says reducing the prevalence of E. coli ahead of the packing house increases ultimate food safety. Most consumers believe such interventions would be positive. Far fewer consumers, Dr. Crain says, understand the success of preharvest E. coli interventions depends on industry-wide application. Although consumers would likely bear the final cost, so far, none of the packers, food service folks or retailers Dr. Crain has visited with have agreed to adopt this kind of added assurance.

X-Ray Pneumonia Detection System

Dr. Crain’s latest endeavor is an X-ray pneumonia detection system aimed at detecting lung lesions and subclinical pneumonia when cattle arrive at the feed yard.

“Obviously, the idea of using an X-ray is not original with me,” Dr. Crain says. “What’s new is the availability of digital technology that allows us to take X-rays in a matter of seconds.”

Though interest from feed yards has been more than positive, Dr. Crain says, “We don’t know if it has value in the field. There’s hardly any of this kind of data. We need to validate it.”

There are two things he is sure of.

First, he says he’s not smart enough to see subclinical bovine respiratory disease complex in every head. Second, doing things the way they have been done continues to stymie much cattle health progress at the feedlot level.

“Over the last several years, we (the industry) vaccinate more and more, treat more and more cattle with more and more expensive antibiotics and designer molecules and we’re losing more cattle,” Dr. Crain says. “This kind of data may provide us with some insight as to why that is.”