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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Graham

When Hell Freezes Over

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

December was the month from hell around here. This blog post is going to change directions to discuss our struggles, experiences, protocols, and mortalities. This post is the honest truth about our trials and tribulations. Please feel free to reach out for any advice or experiences you have had.

December boasted extreme cold temperatures (-35C without the wind) and wind for almost two full weeks. These temperatures created extreme stress for the cattle and for all of us at P Cross. We experienced disease outbreak like never before. We will start from the beginning of our struggles.

Unpopular opinion: pre-sort sales at auction marts need to be canceled or handled differently. With the wet, stormy weather in November, cattle taken to auction marts for pre-sort sales were doomed to be unhealthy. These cattle come in at least two days before the sale, are often not fed anything that day, and sometimes do not have access to water until the following day. The next day they are stressed through sorting and weighing in the ring. Then these cattle sit overnight with new cattle from different ranches, increasing the potential for disease spread. They are then stressed again as they are run through the ring for the actual sale. This year getting trucks was a limiting factor in the timeline. These cattle sat up to 5 days in some places before trucks could be arranged to move them to their final destination. With weather swings and wet snow, these cattle arrived at our feedlot stressed, wet, and immunocompromised. How can we expect these arrival vaccines to work when the cattle's immune system is already compromised? We had animals dying as they came off the trucks or within 12 hours of being on-site at the feedlot. All the cattle were so stale and unhealthy coming in.

Processing: we process all cattle within 24 hours of arrival. Our processing protocol for 2022 includes Draxxin, Bovi-Shielf Gold One Shot, UltraBac 7/Somubac, and Revalor implants (varies depending on the sex of animal). We use Draxxin on all of our feedlot induction protocols. This allows some time for the animal's immune system to respond to the vaccines. However, after the 14ish days on Draxxin, we were still seeing advanced numbers of pneumonia treatments and mortality. The Draxxin was just masking the bacteria that was already in these cattle's systems. For all our lots, these 14 days were at least a week before the extreme cold came.

The first disease we encountered was pneumonia caused by Mannhemia Haemolytica. As I mentioned above, we vaccinated with Bovi-Shield Gold One Shot. This is a Zoetis product for protection against Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), including effective protection against Mannhemia Haemolytica. The majority of these cattle did not show symptoms but were found dead in the pens. However, animals that we were able to pull promptly with symptom detection were treated with Zeleris on the first pull. Zeleris was our first pull protocol because most of these cattle are just off Draxxin and Zeleris is a completely different medication class. The symptoms included lethargy, depressed animal, a snotty nose, off-feed, etc. However, we found that Zeleris was not an effective treatment for severe cases. Therefore, we switched to Excede for severe cases or animals that required a second treatment. Dexamethasone 5 was also used as a second treatment to provide anti-inflammatory properties in the lungs.

Looking at the history of these animals, we feel that vaccination was less effective due to the high-stress arrival and cold stress shortly after arrival. These cattle did not have time to adjust to the location, to weaning, or to the weather.

The second illness we encountered was coccidiosis. This is caused by a single-celled parasite known as coccidia. These protozoan parasites inhabit the large intestine resulting in diarrhea due to damage to the cells lining the intestine. The symptoms of this disease are diarrhea, depression, weight loss, dehydration, bloody diarrhea, mucus in feces, loss of appetite, feces on tail and rear end, and in some cases a nervous disease. There is very little known about the cause of the nervous symptoms, but seizing, head bobbing, and staggering can be seen in the cattle being affected. The nervous symptoms come out more when the cattle are stressed. For example, if you go to pull the animal out of its pen to treat it, it may seize and go down.

We started to see the diarrhea appearing in a single pen of the lot, we pulled the severe diarrhea animals and treated them with Borgal for 5 consecutive days. If we were able to catch them quick enough, they seemed to recover with just this Borgal treatment. As soon as we saw a case in another pen, we started feeding Amprol in the feed to all the pens. Amprol 25% is a feed mix used in prevention and treatment of coccidiosis. The Amprol in the feed seemed to help decrease the cases of head that needed to be pulled for additional treatment.

Some animals began showing the nervous disease symptoms and were treated with Amprol 9.6%, which is a liquid supplement that is used as a drench. They were also treated with thiamine and dexamethasone. The symptoms of nervous cocci present similar to polio, therefore the thiamine is to counteract this. This seemed to work on some of the cattle. However, this was also a 5 day treatment and it was becoming apparently that there was not enough time to treat new cases and keep up with protocol for existing cases. Our veterinarian suggested trying a Toltazuril paste, whcih is a one time treatment. It may have been due to case selection, but we found this product was ineffective, especially for the price, and returned protocol to the Amprol 9.6% treatment.

In past years, we used a Sustain III bolus with the Borgal treatment protocol. We found these boluses were able to coat the intestine to promote healing. However, this product is no longer available. We are looking for other options in the future to aid in the treatment and healing of coccidiosis cases.

Eventually, after a lot of stress and very high treatment costs, the weather warmed up and we were able to bring feedlot health back up to an acceptable place. This was not without significant loss. We lost more cattle in December than we have in the last two years. Since that time, we have met with the vet to build full treatment protocols for all our common feedlot diseases and been able to keep feedlot health up. Please contact me if you have tried different treatment protocols for coccidiosis or pneumonias and any products that you use.


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