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Feedlot Cattle Article by ACS Certificate In Ag Management student Megan Suduk

Diseases affecting Feedlot Cattle

1. ACIDOSIS (grain poisoning-feed related)

Animals suffering from Acidosis show signs of the following:

Ø Grinding of teeth
Ø Off their food
Ø Obvious discomfort/pain
Ø Disinclined to move about
Ø Bloating (not all cases) + sometimes laminitis
Ø Kicking at the belly
Ø Scouring (usually a light coloured smelly faeces)

Death can occur in 12-72 hours unless treated. Acidosis is caused by too much grain being eaten too quickly. This causes a build up of lactic acid in the rumen.
Introduction to new rations (grain) should be done in a slow process of usually 7 days.
Grain & roughage that is too finely milled can also cause Acidosis, and if the animal is suffering from cold weather or stress this can compound the poisoning.
Treatment for mild cases of Acidosis is commonly to drench the animal with Sodium Bicarbonate (110g followed by 60 g every 8-10 hours for 24 hours).
0.5 litres of Paraffin or Vegetable Oil should be given an hour after the first Sodium Bicarbonate treatment. If scouring hasn’t begun a purgative drench (E.G. 230g Epsom Salts) may be administered.
Disadvantages of using Sodium Bicarbonate is that too much can be administered causing the Rumen to show a high PH level.
Electrolyte treatment can be used to restore the balance in the rumen during the recovery stage.


Footrot is a contagious disease caused by the bacteria Dichelobactor nodosus.
The disease thrives in warm, moist conditions and will multiply rapidly. The bacteria can only survive away from the foot for 7 days and will die quickly in drier conditions.
Spread of the disease is mainly from foot to foot although vehicles, goats and other cattle can act as carriers.
Properties with moist pastures, laneways & muddy yards are prone to footrot and spreading of the disease. Antibiotic treatment by a veterinarian can be used for treatment of infected animals however prevention in a feedlot situation is the best solution.
Feedlot yards should be kept dry and clean where possible, with boggy or rough areas removed.
Concrete areas should be kept excrement free and hosed down with a high grade disinfectant on a regular basis if possible.

3. BOVINE RESPIRATORY DISEASE (unrelated to feed).

Symptoms of Bovine Respiratory Disease can vary in severity. Some cattle show mild signs whereas others are just found dead.
The following are some symptoms of BRD but not always are all present:
Ø Animal is off their food
Ø Nasal discharge
Ø Fever
Ø Depression
Ø Coughing
Ø Laboured breathing

Stress is also a significant contributing factor and cattle susceptible to BRD will show signs within the first 4 weeks of being introduced to a feedlot and new feed.
Other diseases such as Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis Virus (IBR) and Pestivirus as well as bacteria such as Pasteurella & Haemophilus can contribute to BRD.
Because a virus is usually followed by a viral infection a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as Tetracyclines should be administered.
If there are signs of BRD in the Feedlot cattle a veterinarian should be consulted ASAP to prevent the more serious pneumonia causing bacteria such as Haemophilus or Pasteurella spreading which can cause the disease to spread rapidly throughout the feedlot cattle. If this does occur then the antibiotic will need to be administered to the entire pen, or entire feedlot depending on the proximity of the pens.
With BRD all animals that have been treated will need to have their treatment recorded for future sales. Also the withholding period will need to be adhered to for slaughter.
There are currently vaccines to prevent the outbreak & prevention of IBR & Pestivirus.

Feed Ratios

Beef Maker Feedlot Pellets/meal.

The cattle on the feedlot I visited are purchased and put into paddocks with improved pasture and supplemented with grain from bins. This slowly introduces the cattle to the grain over a 2-3 week period before being put into the feedlot pens. Once in the feedlot pens they are fed mainly grain with sorghum rolls as roughage. Below is an analysis of the grain used:

ANALYSIS (beef maker feedlot pellets/meal)

Min. Protein 14%
Min. Met Energy 10.5 MJ/kg
Min. Calcium 0.6%
Min. Phosphorus 0.3%
Min. Equiv.C.Protein 3.5%

Feedlot Facilities

The feedlot I visited is only licensed to carry 200 head in the feedlot pens. As there is a constant turnover of animals they are started in the paddocks for 2-3 weeks to be introduced to grain whilst grazing on improved pastures. This allows the farmer to hold another 200 head in paddocks.
The feedlot pens are positioned on a slightly sloping hill so the excrement can be hosed down into drains and into a sedimentation system then a holding pond.
The bulk of the manure is collected from the pens on a daily basis and stockpile for sale as fertilizer.
Each feedlot pen hold 10 head with grain toughs, hay racks (for sorghum) and water troughs.
There is a laneway system along one side of each row of pens for easy handling and moving of cattle, and also a laneway for vehicles to drive along.
The grain bins are refilled in the pens daily and hay racks refilled when needed (usually weekly).
Each paddock holds approx. 20 head and grain bins are refilled twice weekly. The cattle in the paddocks are on improved pasture so there is no need for sorghum rolls to be used.

Criteria for selecting cattle for Feedlots

Ø Animals should be healthy
Ø Disease free
Ø Horns should be removed (to prevent goring)
Ø Of same age and size
Ø Of same sex
Ø Males should be castrated
Ø With no notable injuries
Ø Preferably quiet/easy to handle
Ø Breeds that gain weight easily (E.G. Angus/ Angus X)

Management of Feedlot versus Paddock

Item Feedlot Paddock

Feed Daily Only in drought
Water Daily Weekly check of troughs/dams
Disease Higher risk/closeness of herd Less risk in open paddocks
Fencing Minimal repairs Weekly check
Handling Animals are usually not as calm as Calmer due to being handled more
Paddock herd, not on property as long and also being on property longer.
Mustering Laneway systems enable herd to be moved Mustering to be carried out on bike
By people only. Or horse, more time consuming.