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Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex

Fluctuating temperatures and wet weather have brought some devastating respiratory outbreaks to our area. While bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria, stress is an important part of the disease process as well. Stress suppresses the immune system and creates an opportunity for pathogens to cause disease. There are many causes of stress including shipping, commingling groups, weaning, weather fluctuations and feed changes. Working to minimize stress to animals and planning your vaccination strategy around times of stress will greatly reduce the risk of disease in your herd.

Here are some other measures that you can take to keep your herd healthy:

  • Quarantine new additions to the herd to allow them time to acclimate to the new environment. Even when well-vaccinated animals are added to a well-vaccinated herd, there is an exchange of new germs that can lead to disease.

  • Avoid purchasing animals of unknown origin, especially from stockyards. These animals have unknown vaccination and disease history and have often made multiple stops (with multiple exposures to stress and germs) prior to purchase.

  • Respiratory disease responds best to treatment when identified early. Early symptoms can include loss of appetite, failure to stay with the herd, nasal discharge, cough, increased respiratory rate, or decreased production. When respiratory disease is allowed to linger untreated, irreversible damage is done to the lungs.

  • For calves reared in hutches or stalls, be sure that they have clean dry bedding available at all times. Straw is preferable in the winter to allow the calf to create a warm environment with protection from the elements.

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