Natural Ways to Help Reduce the Risk of Bovine Respiratory Disease

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It can be a challenge to keep stocker cattle healthy. Temperature swings, moisture, poor ventilation and commingling with calves from other points of origin are all stressors that impact the calves’ overall health and performance and can lead to Bovine Respiratory Disease or BRD, the leading cause of sickness in cattle. Even healthy-appearing cattle can carry the BRD-causing bacteria, and once their immune system is compromised, that bacteria can travel to the calf’s respiratory system causing symptoms like mucus, a runny nose and fever.

With an increasing amount of calves being fed and marketed through natural and other health-verified, value-added programs, keeping calves healthy from the beginning is of upmost importance. Not only does the feeder typically receive premiums for calves in those programs, they are saving money on costly treatment protocols, which both contribute to a positive bottom line.

“BRD is a very complex disease and a lot of things can cause it. From a viral aspect, there is nothing we can do. However, prevention is the name of the game when it comes to other outside factors that cause BRD, and there are several steps we can take to prevent BRD and other sickness in our calves,” said Lindsey Grimes-Hall, Nutrition & Field Sales Support for BioZyme® Inc.

Since up to 70-percent of immune cells are found within the digestive tract, it is vital to keep the gut healthy. If the gut is healthy, animals will be more resilient and better suited to withstand any challenges that come their way. This is why the VitaFerm® Gain Smart® Stocker Program can play an important role in eliminating sickness and keeping cattle in those value-added programs.

“Trace minerals and vitamins are the building blocks of good immunity and overall health,” Grimes-Hall said as she offers advice on keeping calves well and in those natural programs.

First, follow good vaccination protocols to manage and prevent bacterial pathogens. Work with your veterinarian to make sure you have vaccinated your calves properly and in a timely manner. An added benefit of a good mineral program is that those vaccinations will work more effectively.

Next, practice good handling and work to reduce stress as much as possible. Weaning and receiving calves are two of the most stressful times in the life of a calf, and often that increased stress causes the calf to go off feed or water due to the microbial imbalance in the digestive tract. The Vita Charge® line will help keep those microbes in balance, while reducing the stress of the animal. The first two steps of the VitaFerm Gain Smart Stocker Program include the Vita Charge Cattle Drench and Vita Charge Stress Tubs. The drench provides an initial dose of valuable nutrients including antioxidants, b Vitamins, MOS and Amaferm to help jump support the rumen micro-organisms and support feed intake therefore supporting the immune system and vaccination program on arrival.  The Stress Tubs further support your efforts by providing valuable nutrients in the form of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals plus Amaferm and MOS. MOS helps by binding to some specific strains of Salmonella, E. coli and other bad bacteria allowing animals to perform at optimal levels.

The third step to the VitaFerm Gain Smart Stocker Program is feeding the actual Gain Smart mineral for at least 45 up to 100 days. Four mineral options exist, depending on your cattle’s diet (Click to View Options), and all mineral contains Amaferm®, a precision-based prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply within for maximum performance.

“When you are using the preventative measures like Vita Charge and transitioning your calves to Gain Smart mineral every day, you’re working on preventing sickness and putting on more efficient gains in a healthier package,” Grimes-Hall said. “It’s not fool proof, but it’s as close to treatment as you can get to ensure you don’t fall out of the natural programs.”

If you do have calves that get sick, it is important to treat them as soon as you see symptoms. The earlier you treat them, the sooner they should get back to good health, eating and gaining. Remember, antibiotics kill the good bugs in the gut as well as the bad bugs. That’s where Amaferm can again assist in keeping your calves back on track. Amaferm helps reestablish good bugs faster so an animal doesn’t miss a beat.

Taking proactive measures with your animals’ health doesn’t just help prevent sickness and loss in performance, it could also have an impact on your profitability due to gain. However, if you have to treat one calf for BRD, that treatment alone is going to cost anywhere between $28-$35 and that is just for one dose. That doesn’t count a repeated treatment, loss in gains or any additional wormers and/or treatments you might give.

When your bottom line matters, prevention pays. Using a mineral program like the Gain Smart Stocker Program with Amaferm that promotes health and economically produced pounds makes a lot of sense.

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