Feeding behavior as an early predictor of bovine respiratory disease in North American feedlot systems.

Wolfger, B., Schwartzkopf-Genswein, K.S.G., Barkema, H.W., Pajor, E.A., Levy, M., and Orsel, K. (2015). "Feeding behavior as an early predictor of bovine respiratory disease in North American feedlot systems.", Journal of Animal Science, 93(1), pp. 377-385. doi : 10.2527/jas.2013-8030  Access to full text


Bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which can cause substantial losses for feedlot operations, is often difficult to detect based solely on visual observations. The objectives of the current study were to determine a BRD case identification based on clinical and laboratory parameters and assess the value of feeding behavior for early detection of BRD. Auction-derived, mixed-breed beef steers (n = 213) with an average arrival weight of 294 kg were placed at a southern Alberta commercial feedlot equipped with an automated feed bunk monitoring system. Feeding behavior was recorded continuously (1-s intervals) for 5 wk after arrival and summarized into meals. Meals were defined as feeding events that were interrupted by less than 300 s nonfeeding. Meal intake (g) and meal time (min) were further summarized into daily mean, minimum, maximum, and sum and, together with frequency of meals per day, were fit into a discrete survival time analysis with a conditional log–log link. Feedlot staff visually evaluated (pen-checked) health status twice daily. Within 35 d after arrival, 76% (n = 165) of the steers had 1 or more clinical signs of BRD (reluctance to move, crusted nose, nasal or ocular discharge, drooped ears or head, and gaunt appearance). Whereas 41 blood samples could not be processed due to immediate freezing, for 124 of these steers, complete and differential blood cell count, total serum protein, plasma fibrinogen, serum concentration of haptoglobin (HP), and serum amyloid A (SAA) were determined. The disease definition for BRD was a rectal temperature ≥ 40.0°C, at least 2 clinical signs of BRD, and HP > 0.15 mg/mL. It was noteworthy that 94% of the 124 steers identified by the feedlot staff with clinical signs of BRD had HP > 0.15 mg/mL. An increase in mean meal intake, frequency, and mean inter-meal interval was associated with a decreased hazard for developing BRD 7 d before visual identification (P < 0.001). Furthermore, increased mean mealtime, frequency, and mean inter-meal interval were associated with a decreased BRD hazard up to 7 d before feedlot staff noticed clinical symptoms (P < 0.001). In conclusion, mean intake per meal as well as mean meal time and frequency of meals could be used to predict the hazard of BRD in feedlot cattle 7 d before visual detection and could be considered in commercial feedlot settings once a predictive algorithm has been developed.

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