Enhancing well-being to combat bovine respiratory disease

Written by
Janice Chow

Bovine respiratory disease is a devastating infectious disease that continues to be a major challenge for the cattle industry across the world. The disease complex is detrimental to cattle well-being and health, sometimes even resulting in death. Our team in Mexico set out to help cattle professionals to mitigate the impact of this disease complex, focusing on driving animal well-being enhancements.

 

The cattle industry in Mexico has evolved rapidly over the last decade and it is today, the world’s eighth largest producer of beef,1 with more than 34 million head of cattle.2 And across the country, cattle professionals are emphasizing more and more on good animal well-being as it is the basis for furthering sustainable beef production.

But while well-being improvements don’t always have to be complicated or costly, one needs to know where to start. This is why our team in Mexico continues to collaborate closely with cattle professionals to advance animal well-being in practical ways.

 

The animal well-being challenge

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is a major health, well-being and productivity challenge for cattle professionals across the world, Mexico included. And despite the availability of various preventive approaches and treatments, BRD continues to be a deadly and costly disease. For example, each year, BRD is estimated to cost the industry over US$1 billion in the United States alone.

What makes BRD challenging is that it is a complex infectious disease that can develop from viral and bacterial factors, in interaction with the animal’s immune system. Added to that, external factors that can cause stress to the animals, such as transportation, calf weaning, comingling, and adverse weather, can also contribute to BRD.

 

Our solution on-the-ground

Our team in Mexico recognized the need for a multi-faceted approach to preventing and fighting BRD. They looked beyond treatment for ill animals, although still essential, to focus on enhancing cattle well-being as a means to improve the resilience of cattle and reduce susceptibility to the disease complex.

As part of Bayer Animal Health’s overall commitment to “Bienestar Animal, Tratar Bien” (Animal Well-Being, Treat Well), the team collaborated with experts to develop a program centered on advancing cattle well-being and minimizing BRD risk factors at key stages along the production chain.  

First, the Bayer Animal Health team enhanced their own knowledge base on the science of animal welfare, particularly in areas such as understanding cattle behavior, how animals experience the world through their senses, and best practices in good handling and management.

Then, equipped with the necessary know-how, they set out to share their knowledge and practical recommendations to help cattle professionals identify and implement farm-specific animal well-being enhancements. And to further tackle the challenge of BRD, the team developed METRA, a holistic program that also encompasses practical best practice approaches to the management, control and treatment of BRD.

 

The result

The team’s commitment and collaborative approach to driving advancements in animal well-being has been well received by cattle professionals across the country, complementing Bayer Animal Health’s ongoing scientific and educational outreach initiatives. The well-being best practice training sessions is estimated to have reached more than 100,000 cattle professionals across Mexico, in turn benefitting more than 20 million cattle. 

Driving cattle well-being enhancements to address BRD risk factors has had a direct and significant impact on reducing BRD incidence – with some cattle professionals seeing the proportion of cattle sick as a result of BRD dropping by up to five percent. Naturally, this benefits cattle health and productivity.

Our team’s efforts are welcomed by cattle professionals across the country, who are seeing results and benefits first-hand. And the team is motivated to continue making a difference for the lives of animals and cattle professionals alike.

Written by
Janice Chow