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Industry Targets Top Three Feedlot Diseases

02 July 2013

US - Researchers, veterinarians, and feedlot operators are working on a chute-side tool that would detect common bovine diseases in the early stages, allowing feedlot operators to treat and contain sick animals promptly.

The project targets Histophilus somni, Mycoplasma bovis, and bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV). H. somni, which causes a blood infection, is the number one killer of fall-placed calves. M. bovis causes chronic pneumonia, ear infections, mastitis, and arthritis, while BVDB is responsible for a host of problems ranging from abortions to congenital defects.

The project pulls in support from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), and Aquila Diagnostic Systems Inc.

“If veterinarians and livestock producers can check for multiple pathogens in a single test on the farm or at the chute side, they can begin disease specific treatments and management strategies. Early detection of infectious diseases hopefully will improve health outcomes for the infected animal and the herd as a whole,” said Dr. Jason Acker, Aquila’s chief technology officer, in a release.

Aquila specializes in tools for detecting malaria in people, along with diseases in the livestock industry. The company’s diagnostic tools are plastic chips with different compartments. Each compartment can do a DNA-based test on a blood droplet, urine, or other fluid. Aquila’s website states the tests are low-cost, sensitive, and don’t need highly skilled operators.

Joyce Van Donkersgoed, a veterinarian, will be working with the Van Raays, who run a feedlot north of Lethbridge, Alta, to evaluate Aquila’s chute-side prototype this fall.

Van Donkersgoed said time is the most important factor when an animal gets sick.

“If we get the right treatment at the right time, we can reduce the long-term impact of the disease and protect the herd with disease specific vaccines or treatments. This saves us from substantial herd losses or reduced growth due to illness, but it also cuts down on money spent treating animals without knowing what specific disease they have,” said Van Donkersgoed.

Dr. Susan Novak, ALMA’s research manager, said the technology will reduce the economic risk of sick cattle, making feedlots more sustainable.

“Through that, we’re also improving the outcomes and animal welfare for all the cattle in a herd. Finally, we are reducing the use of antibiotics in the food chain, fulfilling part of the social contract industry has with the public to raise livestock in a way that doesn’t harm the larger ecosystem,” said Novak.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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