On-farm workshops assess costly disease risk in beef

By Cathy McKenzie, WSU Mount Vernon

beef-plate-170MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Free, voluntary, on-farm assessments will continue through March to help beef cow-calf producers across the state reduce the risk a deadly respiratory disease poses to their herds.

“These workshops have been developed to address pneumonia, also known as bovine respiratory disease complex – the number one killer in calves,” said Susan Kerr, veterinarian and Washington State University livestock and dairy specialist based at WSU Mount Vernon’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center.

In the United States the disease each year results in the death of more than 1 million animals and financial losses exceeding $700 million. Research shows feedlot cattle suffering from pneumonia are worth $23 to $150 less per animal than healthy cattle.

“Reducing pneumonia cases will also reduce the need for antibiotics to treat the disease,” Kerr said.

Farm visits continue through March

To schedule a risk assessment workshop, farmers may contact WSU veterinary extension coordinator Sandy Poisson, spoisson@vetmed.wsu.edu or 509-335-8225.

Timing of the assessments is key to helping farmers more productively and profitably manage their herds, Kerr said.

“Just like there is a flu season for humans, fall and winter constitute the main pneumonia season for cattle,” she said. “During this time animals are closer together and more susceptible to seasonal stressors, such as transportation and weaning, which are associated with bovine respiratory disease.

“We’re teaching producers that one of the most successful ways to prevent bovine respiratory disease in weaned calves going to the next phase of production is to use pre-conditioning programs that include vaccinations, ration adjustments and a 45- to 60-day waiting period before weaned calves are shipped,” Kerr said.

Nationwide research, education initiative

The workshops are part of the Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex Coordinated Agriculture Project funded by a $9.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project integrates research, education and extension activities to develop cost-effective ways to battle the disease.

WSU is one of eight institutions – and the only one in the Pacific Northwest – included in the project. More information is at http://www.brdcomplex.org/.

The WSU Beef Team was awarded some of the project funding specifically to produce educational materials to help producers reduce the prevalence of pneumonia in beef cow-calf herds, improve animal welfare and increase farm profitability. A second grant from the Western Center for Risk Management Education funded delivery of educational workshops and on-farm assessments.

In December and January, the WSU team conducted assessments for 104 producers in Bridgeport, Pasco, Centerville and Stanwood.

“You’ve given us a lot to take back to the ranch,” said one farmer who recently attended a workshop.



Susan Kerr, WSU Mount Vernon’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center, 360-848-6151, kerrs@wsu.edu