One way to help enhance labour efficiency

There are many things that can cut into the profitability and satisfaction of a beef cattle operation. Employees are a big expense as well as an investment. Medication costs for treating diseases like bovine respiratory disease (BRD) can be another big and variable expense.
calendar icon 18 April 2018
clock icon 5 minute read


By Jeff Sarchet, DVM, Beef Technical Services, Zoetis

Did you know that these expenditures can have a direct correlation to each other? Antibiotic costs are directly related to efficacy, or the number of re-treatments needed after the initial BRD treatment. More BRD re-treatments means your employees spend more time pulling and re-treating cattle and less time improving other areas of the operation. By using a less effective antibiotic, you’re paying for more BRD treatments and getting decreased employee and cattle productivity.

So, how do you keep both BRD treatment costs and labor expenses more manageable?

Trying to cut your BRD treatment costs with a cheaper antibiotic looks like a good option on the surface, but might not be the best for your bottom line or your operation. Not all antibiotics have the same efficacy, which was demonstrated in a recently published analysis of BRD treatment studies.1 In fact, the studies found that some antibiotics are only half as effective as other options for treating BRD. Many antibiotics that are cheaper have been shown to be less effective, which leads to more cattle re-treats and higher medication and labor costs. Here’s how this scenario looks in the long run:

  1. You select a cheaper, less effective antibiotic to treat BRD.
  2. Let’s say this antibiotic treatment has a demonstrated risk for requiring a re-treatment that’s almost double that of another antibiotic option. (The relative risk for re-treatment for several injectable antibiotics can be found in a meta-analysis from Iowa State University published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine in 2016.1)
  3. By using an antibiotic that’s only half as effective as another option, you’ll need to not only double the number of re-treatments but also double the amount of time employees are spending administering these re-treatments. In addition to extra medicine costs you’ll incur for additional re-treats, your labor costs could be considerably higher using a cheaper, less effective antibiotic.1,* A simple way to estimate the impact on labor of using this cheaper, half as effective antibiotic treatment option would be to double the amount of time your employees spend re-treating cattle, which could easily be one to two hours a day.1,* This extra time spent re-treating cattle can lead to decreased efficiency, unengaged employees and less time spent on animal husbandry and other things to improve your cattle’s health and well-being. Keep in mind that companies with higher employee engagement are more efficient and have a 19% higher operating income than those without.2
  4. Bottom line: We all have the same amount of time in a day, and the impact of using a cheaper but less effective BRD antibiotic will always cost you more of that time.

When managing BRD, the initial cost of your antibiotic should be a less important factor than the efficacy of that antibiotic because of the impact on re-treatments needed. For example:

  1. You select Draxxin® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution for your first-line treatment of BRD because it’s proven to be more effective than other injectable antibiotic products for treating BRD the first time.1
  2. Because of the significant potential to reduce re-treatments by 50% or more compared with less effective antibiotic choices, you can avoid expenses for extra medication and labor costs for cattle that have to be re-treated.1
  3. Instead of paying your employees to pull and re-treat more cattle, your employees can spend more time improving cattle management, including implementing vaccination programs that help prevent BRD and the need for BRD treatments.
  4. Bottom line: Your labor can be more efficient treating cattle and make up for initial BRD treatment costs in reduced medication and labor costs.1,*

It’s crucial to consider the efficacy of the antibiotic for efficiently and cost-effectively treating BRD. You have a significant investment in both your employees and your cattle, and this can help protect that investment, rather than overload it. By re-treating fewer cattle, you’ll see greater potential profits from more efficient employees and healthier cattle that are able to perform better.

For more on this topic: This video helps explain the benefits of more first-treatment success when treating BRD, this article looks at ways to ensure your BRD treatment has a chance to be successful and this BRD Cost Calculator helps estimate all your costs of treating and controlling BRD. More expert advice, articles, videos and study summaries from veterinarians and producers are available at

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: DRAXXIN has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days in cattle. Do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Do not use in animals known to be hypersensitive to the product. See full Prescribing Information.


*According to a meta-analysis,1 Micotil® has a relative risk of re-treatment of 1.87,† Zuprevo® is 1.95† and Zactran® is 1.88† compared with 1.00† for DRAXXIN. Value assumes a re-treatment rate of 36% and a 10-hour work day.
†Not based on clinical outcomes

[1] O’Connor AM, Yuan C, Cullen JN, Coetzee JK, da Silva N, Wang C. A mixed treatment meta-analysis of antibiotic treatment options for bovine respiratory disease — An update. Prev Vet Med. 2016;132:130-139.

[2] Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study 2007-2008. Stamford, CT: Towers Perrin; 2007.

About the author

Dr. Jeff Sarchet has been with Zoetis since 2013 and is a senior veterinarian supporting sales colleagues in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas and a contributing marketing liaison for cattle biologicals. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University in 1985. After graduating from veterinary school, he served as a feedlot veterinarian for Bartlett Cattle Company in the Texas panhandle and then become the owner of a mixed-animal practice, Hugoton Veterinary Clinic in Hugoton, Kansas, where he specialized in cow/calf, stocker and feedyard consulting for 21 years. In 2009, he became a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) in beef cattle practice and currently serves on the ABVP board as the beef regent. He earned a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Iowa in 2012, and in 2014 became a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. Dr. Sarchet grew up on a farm and cattle operation in the Oklahoma panhandle and now resides in Decatur, Texas.

About Zoetis

Zoetis (NYSE: ZTS) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2017, the company generated annual revenue of $5.3 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit

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