Easing stress on cattle during shipping can go a long way to preventing the costs that go along with it: lung infections, costs of treatment and losses associated with decreased performance.
That's why with the help of a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a multi-institutional team led by researchers at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine hopes to better understand post-transit changes in cattle and assess the impact of a long-acting, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, meloxicam, on reducing stress and improving the immune function and health of feedlot cattle.
Hans Coetzee, DVM, PhD, and associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University, stress-induced problems are costly, and have the potential to be controlled by NSAIDs, which reduce pain and inflammation.
Bovine respiratory disease, for example, costs the beef industry approximately $700 million per year, Coetzee estimates.
In our first study examining the effects of NSAIDs, researchers looked at the pre-shipment administration of meloxicam to see if this would reduce the negative impact of long-distance transportation on animal well-being.
"We found that meloxicam does in fact reduce the stress response in calves after shipping," Coetzee said. But since meloxicam is not currently labeled for use in cattle in the United States, the investigators hope that with further research these findings will help support such an approval in the future.
"Long-term, our team is focused on exploring ways to minimize the negative effects of transportation on livestock health and performance," Coetzee said. "Finding effective disease prevention strategies in U.S. beef production systems is a critical need within the industry."
The meloxicam study is the first part of the project. Next, researchers will determine the impact of meloxicam on overall feedlot disease risk and performance; and then correlate post-transportation biomarkers with subsequent health, performance and carcass characteristics.
"Transit stress has long lasting impact on cattle health," Coetzee said. "Mitigating the impact of stress during shipping will improve the overall health of feedlot calves."
The findings of the study, "Impact of oral meloxicam on circulating physiological biomarkers of stress and inflammation in beef steers after long-distance transportation", were published in the Journal of Animal Science last month.