Cut Costs by Cutting BRD Re-treats

When it comes to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) treatments, it’s usually either do it right or do it twice.
By Douglas Hilbig, DVM, Beef Technical Services, Zoetis

Pull. Re-treat. Pull. Re-treat. Does this sound like an all-too-familiar process treating bovine respiratory disease (BRD)?

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate pulls and repeat BRD treatments, with good management, a strong veterinary relationship and a more effective antibiotic to treat BRD when you need to, you can help reduce some re-treats and the expenses that come with them.

Do It Right or Do It Twice
Repeat BRD treatments can cause more than headaches for beef cattle producers, they can eat into your time.

If a veterinarian advises that you need to treat BRD with an antibiotic, make sure you factor in labor time to the overall cost of the antibiotic. Some antibiotics have been shown to be at least 50% more effective than other antibiotics at treating BRD the first time.1 Translating this to hours, you are essentially doubling the number of BRD re-treatments you’re going to have using a less effective antibiotic treatment, which could mean nearly 1.5 hours per 10-hour day in re-treatment time.1,* Do you have that much time in a day to spare? 

Do It Right or Buy It Twice
An estimated 16.2% of cattle are pulled for BRD at some point during the feeding period.2 On top of that, every repull is net money loss on your operation in labor time, more medication costs, loss of performance, carcass quality and more. This means costs for BRD re-treatments could be greater than your first-treatment cost when you factor in labor and antibiotic costs and production losses.1,**

Let’s just look at the additional labor and antibiotic costs to administer these re-treatments. If you’re using a less effective antibiotic with a higher re-treatment risk to help treat BRD, you could expect to:

  • Lose time, money and employee productivity. When employees are spending more time on re-treatments (second pulls), you’re paying for this in re-treatment medication and labor costs. As I shared above, if you’re doubling the number of BRD re-treatments you’re going to have using a less effective antibiotic treatment, this could lead to employees spending nearly 1.5 hours per 10-hour day in re-treatment time. That’s nearly 1.5 hours that you’re paying employees to pull and re-treat cattle rather than improving other areas of the operation.
  • Buy at least twice the amount of BRD re-treatment medications. Using a product that works better on the first injection, and works for a longer period of time, can help reduce the number of doses you need to use — and buy — overall. Users of many injectable antibiotic products re-treat nearly two times more cattle than users of Draxxin® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution, according to multiple studies.1,*** That’s double the amount of re-treats (second pulls) and double the doses of medications for re-treatments you’ll need to purchase using a treatment that’s 50% less effective.

You can see that additional BRD re-treats can add up quickly. And keep in mind that this isn’t even factoring in the loss of performance, carcass quality, deaths, chronics and more caused from prolonged BRD.

With the never-ending task list on any operation, spending less time pulling and re-treating cattle should be a welcome change. More effective antibiotics can help reduce repulls and net losses that less-effective BRD treatments can create. 

More advice, articles, videos and study summaries from veterinarians and producers are available at There, you also can estimate your operation’s BRD treatment costs using the new BRD Cost Calculator.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: DRAXXIN has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days in cattle. Do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Do not use in animals known to be hypersensitive to the product. See full Prescribing Information.

About the author
Douglas Hilbig is a senior veterinarian with Zoetis Technical Services. He is a native of Kansas, but grew up in Oklahoma and received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Oklahoma State University in 1991. Prior to joining Zoetis, he practiced veterinary medicine in Kansas for more than 20 years, spending the last 18 of these years as an owner of mixed-animal practices and a consulting business dealing with feedyards, backgrounders, stockers, cow/calf and dairy clients. In 2012, Dr. Hilbig joined Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health). Dr. Hilbig’s professional affiliations include the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, where he was a director for the state of Kansas as well as the membership chairman; American Association of Bovine Practitioners; National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Quarter Horse Association.

About Zoetis Zoetis
(NYSE: ZTS) is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products, genetic tests, biodevices and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2017, the company generated annual revenue of $5.3 billion with approximately 9,000 employees. For more information, visit

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*With Micotil®, Zuprevo® or Zactran® you can expect to re-treat almost twice as many cattle, at least 47%, compared with Draxxin for BRD treatment. (According to the meta-analysis,1 Micotil has a relative risk of re-treatment of 1.87, Zuprevo is 1.95 and Zactran is 1.88 compared with 1.00† for Draxxin.) Value also assumes you have a 36% re-treatment rate. 
**According to a meta-analysis,2 Zuprevo has a relative risk of re-treatment of 1.95 compared with 1.00 for Draxxin. Value also assumes a 35% re-treatment rate, an average of $20 in medication costs and the average retail costs of Zuprevo and Draxxin.
***With Micotil, Zuprevo or Zactran you can expect to re-treat almost twice as many cattle compared with Draxxin for BRD treatment. (According to the meta-analysis,2 Micotil has a relative risk of re-treatment of 1.87, Zuprevo is 1.95 and Zactran is 1.88 compared with 1.00 for Draxxin.)
Not based on clinical outcomes
1 O’Connor AM, Yuan C, Cullen JN, Coetzee JK, da Silva N, Wang C. A mixed treatment meta-analysis of antibiotic treatment options for bovine respiratory disease — An update. Prev Vet Med. 2016;132:130-139.
2 U. S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Types and Costs of Respiratory Disease Treatments in U.S. Feedlots. Published April 2013. Accessed March 29,2018.



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