Finding diagnostic tools to efficiently and objectively identify Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) in Australian feedlot cattle is the focus of an ambitious new research project that could potentially transform the industry.
The project, Metabolomics of Bovine Respiratory Disease, is a grainfed levy project being managed by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) in consultation with the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA).
Led by Associate Professor Luciano González from The University of Sydney, Camden NSW, the project has three distinct objectives.
“There remains a huge challenge in trying to objectively identify sick animals in feedlots. The industry currently relies on visual observations of animals to detect BRD in the first instance, so it’s not an objective measure,” Associate Professor González said.
“Diagnosis for BRD in feedlots is based on visual and sound scoring of breathing difficulty, nasal and eye discharge and lethargy, with the use of rectal temperature above a defined level to trigger treatment protocols.
“What we want to do in this project is find new objective ways to identify sick animals. Further, we want to determine the true cost of the disease to the industry.”
The first goal of the project is to explore a possible BRD diagnostic tool known as metabolomics.
Metabolomics is a recent field of science that examines the metabolite profile of body tissues and fluids. The project will examine blood samples from both sick and healthy animals to discover informative biomarkers that could lead to the development of practical and cost-effective tests for BRD in feedlot cattle.
“We will do blood tests at two stages – at induction and then again at any time the animal is deemed to be sick by the pen riders and pulled out for inspection and treatment,” Associate Professor González said.