BRD's Impact On Costs

Just how hard does BRD hit producers' pocketbooks in treatment costs and animal performance? To find out, Iowa State University veterinarians and animal scientists compiled data from 2,146 feedlot cattle in 17 feedlot tests from 1988 to 1997.

The study aimed to determine the impact of BRD on veterinary treatment costs, average daily gain (ADG), carcass traits, mortality and net profit. A second study then identified factors that accurately predict the incidence of BRD.

The Iowa researchers found morbidity caused by BRD was 20.6%. On average, each treatment for BRD cost $12.39; 81% was for drug costs and 19% was for veterinary and feedlot services.

Mortality rate of calves diagnosed and treated for BRD was 5.9% vs. 0.35% for those not diagnosed with BRD. ADG was reduced for treated steers vs. non-treated steers during the first 28 days on feed but did not differ from 28 days to harvest, probably due to compensatory gain.

Net profit was $57.48 lower for treated steers. Of this difference, 82% was due to a combination of mortality and treatment costs. Of the net profit difference, 18% was due to improved performance and carcass value of the non-treated steers. See Figure 1.

The Iowa researchers also determined factors that can help predict the incidence of BRD. Using data from 496 steers and heifers in nine feedlot tests, the effects of age, weaning and use of modified live virus (MLV) or killed vaccines were examined to predict BRD.

Younger calves, non-weaned calves and calves vaccinated with killed vaccines had higher BRD morbidity than those that were older, weaned or MLV-vaccinated, respectively. Moreover, treatment regimes that precluded relapse resulting in re-treatment prevented reduced performance and loss of carcass value.

The researchers concluded that using MLV and weaning calves 30 days prior to shipment can significantly reduce the incidence of BRD.

Disposition scores were also monitored among the animals, but researchers pointed out that the number of animals was limited for this part of the study. Disposition scores did not account for differences in the occurrence of BRD; however, ADG and net profit appeared to be lower for wilder steers than for docile steers.

For more information contact Iowa State's Nolan Hartwig at 515/294-8791 or e-mail