The USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) plans to conduct a national cow-calf study in 2017. NAHMS periodically conducts major studies of individual livestock sector to identify animal-health trends, producer challenges and industry opportunities. The agency most recently studied the cow-calf sector in 2007 and 2008, and now is engaged in planning a follow-up study in 2017.

The 2017 study will involve producers in more than 20 states representing more than 70% of beef cows and beef cow operations in the United States. During late 2017, NAHMS researchers will conduct interviews with producers regarding the health and management of their cattle. After compiling the resulting data, NAHMS will release summary reports, with individual responses held in confidentiality.

In preparing for the study, NAHMS recently conducted a needs-assessment survey of stakeholders including cow-calf producers, veterinarians, academia, members of allied industry, and government officials. The survey intended to determine the critical information gaps regarding the health and management practices and to generate ideas for incentives to encourage participation in the 2017 study.

Results of the assessment suggest that calf health, cow health, animal welfare and biosecurity/disease prevention rank high on the list of priority issues for cow-calf producers.

NAHMS researhers have identified three primary objectives for the Beef 2017 study.

1.       Describe trends in beef cow–calf health and management practices, specifically:

  • Cow health and longevity.
  • Calf health.
  • Reproductive efficiency.
  • Selection methods for herd improvement including tests of genetic merit.
  • Biosecurity

2.       Describe management practices and producer beliefs related to:

  • Animal welfare.
  • Emergency preparedness.
  • Environmental stewardship.
  • Record keeping and animal identification practices.

3.       Describe antimicrobial use practices (stewardship) and determine the prevalence and antimicrobial resistance patterns of potential food-safety pathogens.

  • Types and reasons for use of antimicrobial drugs by animal type.
  • Stewardship.
  • Use of alternatives for disease control.
  • Use of Beef Quality Assurance principles.
  • Veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
  • Information sources.
  • Enteric organism antimicrobial resistance assessments (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli, Enterococcus).

The study will include three phases, with phase I involving interviews with randomly selected producers in 24 states. For Phase II, representatives from USDA’s Veterinary Services will visit participants who volunteer to continue, to complete an additional questionnaire in early 2018.

For Phase III, participants can choose to work with NAHMS representatives to collect a variety of biologic samples from their operations. The researchers have not yet identified specific samples they will collect for the study, but past sampling included testing calves for persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea virus and testing harvested forage samples for nutrient content.

Learn more about the upcoming study and past NAHMS cow-calf studies.