Ancillary therapies for sick cattle

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Antibiotics aren’t always the whole picture when it comes to treating feedlot cattle. Ancillary therapy and management also play a role. Nels Lindberg, DVM, Production Animal Consultation, Great Bend, Kan., sometimes uses vitamin C, some vitamin B complex, and/or flunixin meglumine as ancillary treatments, depending on lung sounds and temperature. “Those are going to be my most common. I might use a drench, something to try and stimulate some rumination, hydration, energy, electrolytes or minerals.”

Whether to return an animal from the hospital to the home pen depends on several factors, and it often depends on the individual animal. “For some yards it depends on the calf,” Lindberg says. “I typically try to get them back home, but if they’re fairly weak, and depending on how the yard stocks their pens, they might keep them up in the hospital. I’ve got one yard that I know gives plenty of bunk space, so I’m more apt to send him home. If I’ve got a manager that watches his P&L pretty close and is pushing his bunk space, then I try and keep them back.”

Tom Portillo, DVM, Progressive Veterinary Services, LLC, Amarillo, Texas, prefers to send cattle straight home after treatment. “The hospital systems that we have now were designed when we used to have to treat once a day for several days. I think it’s a lot more effective if we can go back to the home pen. They don’t have to adjust. They’re going back home, they know where the bunk is, know where the water tank is, know where their cohorts are. Three or more ration changes may not be the best thing for recovery.”

Nate McDonald, DVM, Cattle Health Management Network, Meade, Kan., believes in exercising cattle for health. “We take them out the back gate, let them spend some time in the back alley, coming back to the pen or at the very least exercise them in the pen. A lot of times when one of the metaphylactic antibiotics looks like it’s going to fail, there’s something else affecting the cattle.”

Those other things McDonald calls program killers. “It could be coccidiosis, a ration change that was made that wasn’t supposed to be made or any number of issues that can wreck a health program. By having the clients call you when they exceed a threshold pull rate on a pen, you’re able to head off a lot of those problems.”

Dan Goehl, DVM, Canton Veterinary Clinic, LLC, Canton, Mo. had a feedlot client with a lot of extra pen space where they moved all retreated cattle to a new pen instead of returning them to the home pen. “It wasn’t truly a hospital pen, it was just another set of pens. You have to have a lot of pen space in a small operation to be able to do that.”

Portillo also suggests building new groups with non-responders after they’ve gone through the maximum number of treatments or dollars. “These cattle don’t go back home. We know they’re never going to compete in their home pen environment, so we’ll take them out and restart them in another environment. There’s a lot of merit to identifying those animals and knowing they are never going to really perform in their pen, but finding an environment where they can perform can help.”

These poor-doers that have been through multiple treatments can often be salvaged with a little TLC. Some of McDonald’s clients use grass traps, rye traps or wheat traps for those cattle. “They’re not cattle that we would typically run through a treatment program,” he says. “They get two or three or four treatments on them before you try those strategies to make them salvage something back for the customer. Every feedyard should probably develop a good way to manage these animals.”

“These cattle have been deemed absolute failures,” Lindberg concurs. “But we wind up saving a lot of them.”

This information is from a Bovine Veterinarian roundtable sponsored by Merial.


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