Measure Success to Maximize Your BRD Control Program

Use these metrics from a beef veterinarian to make sure your bovine respiratory disease (BRD) control program is set up to maximize profit.

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) control programs are an effective but often costly strategy for managing BRD and its related expenses. It’s crucial to measure the success of your program so you can be sure your investment is paying off. 

John “J.P.” Pollreisz, DVM, Beef Technical Services veterinarian with Zoetis, recommends the following metrics to help evaluate the success of your BRD control program. Use them independently or in combination to help guide a conversation with your veterinarian about any improvements necessary to maximize profitability.

  1. Lower BRD Morbidity (Pull Rates)
    Herds that receive antibiotics on arrival should have lower BRD morbidity, or pull rates, than untreated herds. In theory, you would expect less-effective antibiotics to be associated with higher pull rates.

    However, keep in mind that other factors may increase pull rates. For instance, rates may be higher if you’re using products with shorter post-metaphylaxis intervals (PMIs). The length of the PMI is determined by the proven efficacy of the antibiotic as well as the length of the time that it’s in the animal’s system. 

  2. Lower BRD Mortality
    Mortality is usually seen as the greatest expense of BRD, making it a critical measurement of BRD control success. Though factors outside of antibiotic efficacy can also influence mortality, the metric itself is fairly objective and easy to track. Death losses include yardage, feed and medicine costs on top of the animal’s purchase price.

  3. When Pulls Occur
    When morbidities and mortalities occur can be just as important as their frequency. BRD morbidity and mortality curves can help identify antibiotic failures based on trends in timing. 

    Cattle that fall ill or die within the antibiotic’s PMI often acquired BRD prior to — or during — transit and may have extensive, irreversible damage upon arrival. Performing necropsies on animals that die within the PMI period is critical to assess if there is pneumonia and the extent, severity and age of the disease process. If morbidities and mortalities continue to occur after the PMI, your antibiotic may be failing to protect cattle from post-arrival infections. 

  4. First-Treatment Response Rate

    Even the best control program may not be able to completely prevent BRD. However, a successful control antibiotic should improve the outcome of any subsequent treatments for BRD outbreaks. In other words, the antibiotic used for control may have as much or more impact on first-pull treatment success than the actual antibiotic used for first-pull treatment.

    High instances of re-treatments may indicate antibiotic failure, but, just as with mortality, additional factors can impact first-treatment success.

  5. Lower Chronic Rate
    The number of cattle that have been treated for BRD three times or more, termed “chronics,” can also indicate antibiotic success. If chronic rates are high, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about different antibiotic and husbandry options to help improve BRD outcomes.

  6. Performance and Carcass Traits
    While antibiotics do not impact carcass quality and performance directly, research has shown that animals pulled once, twice or even three times for BRD have significant grade and carcass impacts.1 

    The bottom line: Controlling BRD more successfully all the way to harvest means improved performance and better carcass traits.

A BRD treatment program has a few different metrics to track. Dr. Pollreisz shares how to measure the success of your BRD treatment program in this article

About Zoetis
Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines, medicines and diagnostics, which are complemented by 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 2018, the company generated annual revenue of $5.8 billion with approximately 10,000 employees. For more information, visit

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Kathleen McGinty

Lindsey Langemeier
Bader Rutter

1 Cernicchiaro N, White BJ, Renter DG, Babcock AH. Evaluation of economic and performance outcomes associated with the number of treatments after an initial diagnosis of bovine respiratory disease in commercial feeder cattle. Am J Vet Res. 2013;74(2):300-309.



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