Evaluation of health status of calves and the impact on feedlot performance: assessment of a retained ownership program for postweaning calves


The objective of this study was to evaluate animal health status at entry to a feedlot against feedlot performance and carcass value. There were 24 herds represented by 417 calves in a retained ownership program. The health status at entry was represented by the levels of serum antibody to infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus (IBRV), bovine viral diarrhea viruses 1 and 2 (BVDV1a, BVDV2), parainfluenza 3 virus (PI3V), bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), Mannheimia haemolytica, and Pasteurella multocida, as well as by the presence of virus in nasal swabs and blood leukocytes and the presence of bacteria in nasal swabs. The presence or absence of viruses or bacteria at entry did not predict subsequent illness. However, there were predictors of illness severity (number of treatments) and performance parameters of feedlot performance. Herds with a low morbidity rate had higher levels of BVDV1a antibodies than herds with a high morbidity rate. On both an individual-animal and a herd-average basis, calves with low levels of antibody to BVDV1a and BVDV2 had increased total treatment costs. Also, for individual animals and the herd as a whole, low levels of antibody to P. multocida, BVDV1a, and BVDV2 were related to decreased net value to owner (carcass value minus total feedlot cost). Calves treated twice or more had lower levels of antibody to BVDV1a than those treated once or not at all. Differences in herd morbidity rate and treatment costs were more related to appropriate timing of vaccine (last dose at or near delivery of calf) or lack of a 2nd dose of killed vaccine. This was best illustrated by the levels of antibody to BVDV1a. The results of this study were used to formulate recommendations for the subsequent year.

Fulton RW, Cook BJ, Step DL, Confer AW, Saliki JT, Payton ME, Burge LJ, Welsh RD, and Blood KS. Can J Vet Res. 2002 July; 66(3): 173–180.