This morning we're going to talk about our least favorite topic – sick cattle. Sick cattle are not fun to deal with, but we're
always going to have some of them. I want you to understand that our philosophy should be to invest time at strategic points
of the production cycle to reduce time spent at hospitals.
For the students, if there is one piece of advice to give you that the AVC has taught me. Surround yourself with people much
more intelligent than you are. You'll see people like Drs. Lynn Locatelli, Wade Taylor, Doug Ford, and Paul Ritter who spend
time trying to bring some form of organization to some of my scatterbrained thoughts. These are examples of people who challenge
me every day. Surround yourself with these kinds of people.
This topic is very complex. Sick cattle management has paradigms within feedlot medicine. The vast majority of pulls on our
database would be grouped into a respiratory disease complex. All these animals that come out of the pen are outliers on both
ends of the biological curve. Very few animals come out of our pens that are in the middle of the biological curve. We need
to understand why some cattle become ill and others flourish. Colostral transfer issues, trace mineral deficiencies, immunosuppression
are examples of issues that explain lack of disease resistance. We have other animals on the other end of the biological curve
that come to the hospital because they've absolutely been selected to gain 6 lbs. per day and have less resistance to disease.
We need to understand the animals that arrive in our hospital situations and be willing to address diagnostic issues.
I have a list of management, head cowboys, head hospital people, assistant managers and so forth. These are the people who
demand our profession to give them the information, the skills, the products, the tools to let them absolutely take care of
every sick animal like they owned it. They take care of every animal in that feedyard like they went to the bank and borrowed
money to buy it. They take care of every animal so that if the owner drives in and has a look that they will be absolutely
impressed about what ishappening.
Pen riders make the difference
Our plan is to help you understand that sick cattle management begins when the truc backs up to the chute with new arrivals.
Sick cattle management begins in the home pen. Recognizing pulls early in disease and ability to remove those cattle from
the pen in a voluntary fashion becomes very important. The front line of sick cattle management is the people who are out
there riding pens. It's important we stretch their job description far beyond what it was 10 years ago. Pen rider focus at
this point is to encourage modulation of prey-animal instincts. In order to do that these people have to be aware of prey
animal instincts and understand new cattle acclimation. The goal when unloading cattle is to convince cattle to be confident
of their new home and willing to visit the bunk.
What is really important is that the stage of respiratory disease that arrives at ourhospital depends on cattle sensitivity
and level of trust cattle have for that caregiver.We've wondered why in these commingled calves you'd have a relatively insensitiveanimal,
a little black baldie from Ogallala Neb. that would be out in his home pen withhis head almost on the ground. When you brought
him in the hospital his temp was a104.8, his lungs were normal, but he looked terrible. He really was in pretty good shape.In
contrast, there's a little red hound-gutted Limousin-cross calf that looks pretty good in the home pen and something catches
your eye and you bring him in. His temp was 105.2° a couple of days ago and now is 103.6° and his lung is very congested with
advanced respiratory disease. Why the difference? It's because of the variation in cattle sensitivity and our inability to
recognize sentinel animals on arrival and interact with these sensitive herd members. These people need to expand their job
descriptions to include learning to train cattle and acclimate them from minute one.
It's important that we're able to pull a febrile or depressed animal out of a pen prior to the development of serious lung
pathology. An example of that would be someone who can interact with the abnormal animal, ask him to volunteer to leave the
pen very efficiently without disturbing pen mates, so the caregiver can return to the pen and request these animals to communicate
their state of health.
Take the example of a Charolais calf looking at a pen rider who wants to take himto the drovers alley. The pen rider is polite
to the pen mates and confident that he can communicate with this animal without upsetting pen mates. With pressure and release,
position and the ability to communicate with the animal, he can ask the animal to gently and quickly leave the pen and wait
to go down to the hospital to be examined. That is critical. Not only the success of the treatment of that particular individual
but to leave a situation where you can go back in and evaluate the health of the pen mates.