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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Feedlot Records

By W. Mark Hilton, DVM, DABVP, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University

Records are essential to monitor the incidence of disease, response to treatment, and production performance, and they should be analyzed regularly by the veterinarian, nutritionist, and feedlot manager. They can be maintained by hand or by using commercially available computer software. The necessary input records include the lot description, processing record, lot update, sale information, animal identification, and feed and animal health product purchases. The necessary output records include the numbers of animals pulled from each pen daily, from which an epidemic curve can be drawn; the treatment response report according to pen or drug used; the percentage of pulled animals that had a fever, which is an indication of how many are probably affected with an acute respiratory disease rather than a noninfectious disease such as grain overload; the daily mortality report, which should include the list of animals that died, along with their arrival dates, the dates of treatment, and the causes of death; a case abstract of the treatment history of each individual animal; and a close-out summary, which includes all production costs, the health and production performance of the lot or pen of cattle (including morbidity, mortality, ratio of feed conversion to body weight gain, average daily gain), the costs of gain per unit of gain, the number of days on feed, and the profit or loss.

Individual Treatment Record:

Each animal treated should be individually identified, if this was not done on entry, and the information recorded on the treatment report. Treatment personnel should record the feeding pen, lot number, body temperature, body weight, disease suspected, treatment given, and location of the animal after treatment (eg, which hospital pen). The severity of the illness should be assessed to properly evaluate response to treatment. Late treatment in advanced stages of disease, particularly respiratory disease, is a major cause of failure to respond, even when the treatment of choice is instituted.

A report is filled out for each animal treated, and all subsequent treatments are recorded. The updated reports are retrieved for animals that relapse or die. The cumulative information on the report can be used to decide whether an animal should be culled for chronic or recurring illnesses that are refractory to treatment, to decide on alternative treatments, to explain reasons for death, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments recommended. Some feedlots record animals that are removed from the pen but sent back untreated because they did not meet the temperature criterion in the case definition for a given disease. This information can be of value if the animal is removed again or dies.

Daily Morbidity and Mortality Record:

This record contains the number of treated cattle by pen and lot number, the disease diagnosed, and the date. It provides both the manager and the veterinarian with a rapid assessment of the location of disease problems in the feedlot. It contains information on the number of animals removed and the number not treated and then classifies those treated according to diagnosis and whether they are a relapse or new case. By using this report in conjunction with an inventory report showing filling dates and numbers added to the pen on those dates, it is possible to generate epidemic curves.

Morbidity and Treatment Analysis Record:

This aggregation of data summarizes the morbidity rate, the relapse rate, and the death rate for a lot or pen of cattle. It is especially important as a tool to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the treatment program for various diseases; the relapse rates and death rates are compared with goals set for the feedlot and with standards published in the literature. The disposition summary alerts the feedlot manager and consulting veterinarian when the results are highly positive, so this feedback can be relayed to all employees to acknowledge their hard work, and when the chronic or culling rates are abnormally high, so that appropriate changes can be made.

Mortality Analysis:

The causes of death as determined by necropsy should be summarized on a regular basis. A mortality analysis includes the number of days the animal was in the feedlot, any observed premonitory signs, and treatment (diagnosis, drug used, and when treated). The pen location of the animal in the feedlot at the time of death should also be considered.

Feedlot Performance Summary:

Most feedlots complete a close-out summary for each group of cattle that have been finished and marketed. The performance record and feeding summary sections include average daily gain, total feed consumption, feed conversion ratios and cost per unit of body weight gain, mortality rates, culling rate, and medical costs. The financial summary provides the profit or loss on an individual and lot basis. If cattle are marketed on a grid basis with rewards for certain carcass characteristics, this information is also included.