A Fatigued Cattle Syndrome Stewardship Program to minimize FCS by mitigating risk factors in the feedyard, during transport and at the packing plant will be ready for release in April 2016.

Dr. Dan Thomson, Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology at Kansas State University, discussed the framework for the stewardship program during a webinar Wednesday afternoon. 

Finished weight, heat stress and animal handling practices have the greatest influence on FCS, a study by Thomson and other noted industry researchers showed.

Thomson and his colleagues recently published “Description of a Novel Fatigue Syndrome of Finished Feedlot Cattle Following Transportation,” in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

During Wednesday’s webinar, Thomson, a third generation bovine veterinarian, provided details about the research as well as outlined facets of the stewardship program. Merck Animal Health is sponsoring the free webinar, which can be viewed any time by clicking “Fatigued Cattle Syndrome: What You Need to Know.”

FCS is a multi-factorial stress that is not influenced by beta agonists, the research indicated.

“Cattle that are fed beta agonists are no more likely to develop FCS than other cattle, and there are no differences in this regard whether the cattle are fed zilpaterol, ractopamine or are not fed a beta agonist at all,” Thomson said. “In reality, the factors that contribute most significantly to FCS are the finished weight of cattle, heat stress and animal handling practices.”

The collaborative effort included researchers from K-State, Iowa State University, Texas Tech University and others.

The FCS Stewardship Program will include multifaceted education platforms directed through Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine and Kansas State Research and Extension.

“Whenever you look at any stewardship program we have to have leadership buy-in, accountability and on-site expertise, and those are three things we have on feedyards on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s management, people that are the shipping-receiving managers, cattle managers or people on the shipping crews, pen riders, consulting veterinarians, consulting nutritionists – all of us need to work to provide accountability and on-site expertise,” Thomson said.

Information cannot be kept in a vacuum, Thomson said.

“We need to track whether or not we’re having an impact, we need to have that reporting structure from the slaughter facility back to the feedyard so we know where we are at on handling these cattle,” he said. “And something that is of upmost importance is being able to provide the education and training to the industry so people understand exactly what is going on so we can prevent this from happening.”

The program’s education platforms will concentrate on three areas:

* Growth physiology of steers and heifers.

* Physiology of exhaustion and heat stress.

* Heat stress mitigation best practices.

“We’re going to have face-to-face training, and we’re going to provide online training,” Thomson said.

The educational materials will provide additional information to veterinarians and nutritionists who will be delivering training and education to their clients.

“This is not one size fits all,” Thomson said. “We’re going provide many different ways for feedyards and packing plants to work together and bridge that knowledge so we can prevent fatigued syndrome in cattle.

“The first thing we’re going to look at what is normal growth physiology of steers and heifers. What’s the physiology of exhaustion? What’s the clinical signs of heat stress? What are some of the things you can do at your feedyard to mitigate heat stress?” he said. “You have sentinel pens – are you monitoring those pens throughout the day? How do we reduce the heat load through management, whether it is shade, sprinklers, water tanks? … There are many different things that we can do and learn together as we move forward.”

Nutrition also will be part of the education platform.

The education and training will address handling of finish cattle, focusing on how to gather cattle in the home pen in a low stress manner and the best way to move cattle across the yard.

“Is it going to take us more time to move them across the yard? Absolutely,” Thomson said.

The program will examine the time cattle spend in a holding pen and if cattle have adequate room to prevent crushing, Thomson said, citing research he and colleagues performed that showed elevated levels of creatine kinase (CK) in some fatigued cattle. 

“When we start to get into these types of (elevated) CK levels in cattle, these would be similar to levels in people that have been in automobile accidents or some sort of crushing injury,” he said.

The program will look at loading and transporting.

“Do a walk-through on your loading facilities. How steep are they?” Thomson said. “… We have the transportation beef quality assurance program, and we sure hope that our transporters are getting that training so they understand how to move these cattle. … Make sure we have the right cattle, the right equipment and the right people moving these cattle to the slaughter facility.”

The education also will focus on the packing plant. Factors at the packing plant that can contribute to cattle being fatigued include time spent standing, available shade, water cooling, pen surface, cattle handling and density of cattle in pens.

The program will emphasize the need for a thorough monitoring and reporting system.

“If a feedyard is having a blip or increase in fatigued cattle coming to the plant, let’s get a diagnostic intervention and work with the consulting veterinarian, consulting nutritionist, cattle manager, shipping and receiving manager, and take some corrective actions,” Thomson said. “And that should all come from the education.”

Thomson is excited to move forward with the stewardship program, he said.

“This has been two years of solid due diligence on this issue,” Thomson said. “We have target ranges of fatigued cattle. In my opinion we should be shooting for none.”