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The cost of bovine respiratory disease in Holstein replacement heifers.

M. Overton




The cost of bovine respiratory disease in Holstein replacement heifers.
M. Overton*. Elanco Animal Health Greenfield, IN.

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is a common disease concern in dairy cattle that is most commonly initially diagnosed in young dairy heifers. BRD has a negative impact at both the individual animal level and at the herd level, but this performance loss is highly variable, depending on disease severity, accuracy and completeness of clinical detection, effectiveness of treatment, and on-farm culling practices. Consequences include decreased rate of weight gain, a higher culling risk either as heifers or as cows, delayed age at first service, delayed age at first calving, and in some cases, lower future milk production. In this data set of 104,100 Holstein dairy replacement heifers from across the US, 36.6% had one or more cases diagnosed within the first 120 d of age with the highest risk of new cases occurring before weaning. Comparison of the raising cost for Holstein heifers with BRD and those without a recorded history of BRD resulted in an estimated cost per incident case occurring within the first 120 d of age of $252 or $282, depending upon whether anticipated future milk production differences were considered or not. No additional differences in first lactation performance such as culling risk or reproductive performance were evaluated. Current market conditions as reflected in this model have contributed to a cost estimate that is significantly higher than previously published estimates, driven in part by the losses associated with selective culling of a subset of heifers that experienced BRD. Depending on the available inventory of replacement heifers and the level of BRD within the herd, selective culling based on disease occurrence may limit a herd's ability to selectively cull based upon genetics; however, this financial cost was not considered here. The cost of BRD in dairy replacement heifers presented here is likely higher than many realize when all aspects of growth and performance are considered but may not completely capture the full economic losses.

Keywords: bovine respiratory disease, dairy replacement heifer, economics.