Current Progressive Cattle digital edition

Unloading Mycoplasma bovis

Pfizer Animal Health Published on 28 June 2011

Producers who regularly deal with high-risk cattle — those animals that may weigh a little less or have been commingled with others from different backgrounds — have seen what Mycoplasma bovis can do to cattle health. However, even the best-prepared operations can experience the disease.

“If you are buying well-managed cattle, you don’t generally see M. bovis as a common theme, but every once in a while you get proof of the problem,” says Daniel Scruggs, DVM, veterinary operations, Pfizer Animal Health. “We don’t know how it happens, but all of a sudden we can see herds that are treating for M. bovis, but by far the most common manifestation is in cattle that are at high risk.”

M. bovis is one of the most common infectious agents connected to clinical cases of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which is estimated to cost the beef industry nearly $1 billion in economic losses from death, reduced feed efficiency and increased treatment costs.

Dr. Scruggs notes that producers should pay close attention to classes of cattle that are most likely to develop M. bovis-related disease, including cattle that have been commingled, lightweight cattle, and cattle that have been stressed. Knowing the level of risk is particularly important if producers are dealing with types of cattle they don’t normally handle as a response to higher feeder prices.

“When cattle prices go up, some producers tend to handle riskier cattle,” Dr. Scruggs says. “Any time people dramatically change the quality of cattle they are buying, they may be surprised by what they encounter disease wise.”

Dr. Scruggs recommends producers work with their veterinarians to control M. bovis before it becomes a problem by treating cattle on arrival with an effective, proven antimicrobial and instituting management changes to help control spread of disease.

However, Dr. Scruggs notes that treatment is only one way to avoid the potential losses associated with M. bovis. Stocking density, maximizing cattle comfort and ensuring those cattle that don’t respond to treatment don’t infect healthy animals all contribute to effective control.

“I advise producers to treat all respiratory disease in cattle as if Mycoplasma bovis were a component, because in many cattle it is M. bovis,” Dr. Scruggs says. “If you do it right, you may never identify if M. bovis was a component because the cattle are treated, get better and move on with their lives.” end_mark