Researchers from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Animal Science at Texas Tech University recently ruled out beta agonists.
Researchers from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Animal Science at Texas Tech University recently ruled out beta agonists, zilpaterol, and ractopamine, as the cause of fatigued cattle syndrome. The results of the study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, showed that more aggressive moving of the animals from the feedyard to the packing plant resulted in the syndrome.
Fatigued cattle syndrome was first identified in 2013, when it was noticed that some cattle were showing signs of hoof wall sloughing and had problems moving normally when entering packing plants. These symptoms did not present when the cattle left the feedyard—a factor that confused veterinarians and cattle feeders. At the time, summer heat and the beta agonists were identified as the culprits; however, the use of beta agonists was inconsistent.
Throughout the course of the 3-year study, the researchers were able to recreate fatigued cattle syndrome in animals that were not fed a beta agonist by running the animals and handling them incorrectly when transferring them from the feedyard to the loading facility. The researchers found that treating the animals more aggressively, particularly larger, heavier cattle, resulted in the negative physiological reaction.
These findings prompted Kansas State to create a fatigued cattle syndrome stewardship program, set to launch in April 2016. The goal of the program is to provide education to feedyards and packing plants to work together and appropriately handle the cattle to prevent this syndrome. Educational topics will include how to mitigate heat stress among the animals in the feedyard, how to gather animals in a low-stress manner, best practices for moving cattle across the feedyard, and ensuring appropriate facilities in the feedyard, loading facilities, and packaging plants. In addition, Kansas State will work with the cattle handlers to develop a system for monitoring, reporting, and problem solving so that an open stream of communication is maintained between the feedyards and the packing plant.