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Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) in Beef Cattle

What is BRD?

BRD, also known as shipping fever, is the general term for any disease of the upper respiratory tract (e.g., bronchitis, rhinitis, tracheitis) or lower respiratory tract (e.g., pneumonia). It is known as a “disease complex,” stemming from three primary causes — stress, a viral infection and a bacterial infection — which typically work in combination with one another. BRD typically impacts cattle within the first four weeks post-weaning and can be fatal.

Signs of BRD in beef cattle

  • Droopy ears
  • Fever
  • Lethargic behavior 
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Coughing
  • Bloody or excessive nasal discharge


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4 ways to help prevent BRD in beef cattle

  1. Reduce stress at all costs. When it comes to BRD, investing a bit more to ensure the receiving health of your cattle will pay big dividends. Remember: cattle have just endured a long, strenuous trip to your yard, so doing everything you can to reduce their stress upon arrival is critical. This begins with providing a comfortable, clean environment with as little overcrowding and dust as possible. Pay special attention when adverse weather occurs (e.g., excess heat, cold, rain, etc.) and adjust accordingly. Be sure to provide sufficient bedding as well, so cattle can get some much-needed rest.
  2. Provide good nutrition early and often.
  • Offer highly palatable, nutrient-dense feed.
  • Provide the right mix of micronutrients.
    • Bio-Mos® and Bio-Mos 2® can help drive gut health. Bioplex® and Sel-Plex® support maximum trace mineral status. These feed additive products are backed by peer-reviewed scientific research and have been utilized by many producers as a key part of their comprehensive BRD programs.
  • Supply fresh, clean drinking water at all times.
  1. Utilize pen riders and technology wisely. Remember, cattle are animals of prey, meaning they will do everything possible not to appear sick or wounded. A skilled pen rider with a keen eye serves as a critical preventative tool, and implementing high-tech solutions, such as drones, wearables and/or other digital aids, will be important in the fight against BRD, particularly as they become more cost-effective.
  2. Establish a beef cattle vaccination program with a trusted veterinarian. A skilled local veterinarian is your best ally for ensuring that vaccines are working effectively to combat potential BRD outbreaks. Vaccination histories should also play an important role in where you source your cattle. Finding animals who have been vaccinated up to 45 days pre-weaning and again prior to shipping will have a significant impact on BRD prevention.