After years of improvements in both vaccines and antibiotics, losses from bovine respiratory disease complex (BRDC) still results in more than $900 million each year for the cattle industry.1
“There’s almost no way to prevent exposure to at least one of the numerous pathogens or cattle-handling stressors that can lead to BRDC. It’s a constant companion for cattle,” says Kerry Barling, DVM, Ph.D., Global Manager of Beef Technology, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “If cattle producers are trying to battle BRDC with just one tactic, they are almost guaranteed to not reach their animals’ genetic and profit potential.”
Losing ground to this expensive foe can mean the difference between profit and loss. Therefore, Dr. Barling recommends cattle producers approach the disease on multiple fronts. First, vaccination can help prevent disease caused by specific pathogens. Next, producers should try to reduce the effects of stress and keep cattle on feed during stressful situations.
“Stressful situations like weaning, shipping, processing and weather events are unavoidable,” Dr. Barling says. “It can be just enough to allow disease to take hold. When cattle are stressed, they are not eating, drinking or gaining weight.”
Adding a probiotic or direct-fed microbial to feed can help tip the balance in favor of beneficial microbes in the gut. One probiotic, Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079, has been proven to improve cattle feed uptake, lower morbidity and lower mortality.2 In a study of heifers sourced from auction barns across the southeastern United States, cattle fed ProTernative®, S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079, had 39 percent fewer re-treatments for BRDC as compared to controls.3
Probiotics like S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 can be fed to cattle before or during a period of known stress. It is also typically fed after arrival while cattle are adjusting to their new surroundings. In addition, S. c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 can be fed in conjunction with vaccination and antibiotic treatment programs.
Probiotics are not used to treat disease, but the right probiotic can prompt positive effects to the calves’ overall well-being and immunity. It’s a natural, proactive alternative to help improve overall cattle performance, Dr. Barling notes. Careful management during stressful situations — plus adding a probiotic to reduce the negative impact of stress in cattle — can help the industry confront BRDC like never before.
“BRDC comes at producers from all angles,” Dr. Barling says. “Even with advances in prevention and treatment, we’ve still seen the pull rate in feedlot cattle remain around 30 percent for years. It’s time we use all the tools available to help fight this industry-wide challenge.”