A lot of feedlot veterinarians perform on-feedlot trials or side-by-side comparisons of drugs and treatment protocols to try to get a handle on what works best for that operation.

You have to have a willing client, says Nels Lindberg, DVM, Production Animal Consultation. “We do a fair amount of trial work, but it seems that sometimes it’s getting harder to do that. We’ll run varying trials if we have a large enough set of cattle coming in and that they’re willing on the accounting side to split them up and put into five or 10 different pens.”

Tom Portillo, DVM, Progressive Veterinary Services, LLC, Amarillo, Texas, says in-house evaluations and trials are becoming more commonplace, especially chuteside. “If you’ve got somebody who is willing, and somebody pretty good chuteside, you can do them,” he says. “But you need to help them design a fairly good study.”

Portillo believes in the value pharmaceutical companies can bring with extensive trials. “They are controlled trials, and although some of them are pretty well designed and conducted, you still have to take it with a grain of salt when you’re told what the benefit is. I also think it’s practice over time. So if you expect a 50% decrease in morbidity and mortality, you can’t say that with every pen, but you can say over time, if we use this practice, for example, of metaphylaxis in this population of cattle, we can expect these results. It’ll be an average, but there’s going to be some pens where it’s improved significantly and some maybe not very much.”

Portillo says over time, as we do things like meta analysis, it’s beneficial to see what those practices actually give us in terms of health and performance as well. “Again, even that won’t guarantee how much we’re going to control morbidity and mortality on individual pens. Sometimes we don’t know what the stars are going to bring when they unload them.”

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

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