Bovine respiratory disease

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the most common and costly disease affecting beef cattle in the world.[1] It is a complex, bacterial infection that causes pneumonia in calves which can be fatal. The infection is usually a sum of three codependent factors: stress, an underlying viral infection, and a new bacterial infection.[2] The diagnosis of the disease is complex since there are multiple possible causes.[3]

The disease manifests itself most often in calves within four weeks of weaning, when calves are sorted and often sold to different farms; a common nickname for BRD is "shipping fever."[4][a] It is not known whether the stress itself, co-mingling, or travel conditions are at most to blame, and while studies have identified general stressing factors like transport and cold weather conditions, there is still no conclusive evidence on more specific factors (e.g. distance, transport mode, temperature, or temperature volatility).[6]


BRD is a "multi-factorial syndrome" that is dependent on a number of different causes.[7] The pathologic condition commonly arises where the causative organism becomes established by secondary infection, following a primary bacterial or viral infection, which may occur after stress, e.g. from handling or transport.[8] Usually all three of these factors must be present in order to cause BRD.[9] Viral agents are often present in the herd for an extended time, with almost no symptoms, and only cause severe complications with a bacterial infection.[7]

The bacterial agents most commonly linked with BRD are Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni, and Mycoplasma bovis.[7] M. haemolytica serovar A1 is known as a particularly common bacterial cause of the disease.[10] Viral agents include Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), and Parainfluenza type-3 virus (PI-3).[11]

Clinical signs and diagnosisEdit

BRD often develops within 4 weeks of cattle transport.[11] The biggest sign of the pneumonia that BRD causes is depression, shown as droopy ears, dull eyes, and social isolation. Additionally, most cows will have a fever above 104 °F (40 °C).[12] Other symptoms include coughing, decreased appetite, and breathing difficulty.[9]

Treatment and controlEdit

Because of the number of possible viral/bacterial precursors to BRD, there are a number of treatment options circling around the three main aggravators of the disease: Viruses, Bacteria, and Stress.


Vaccinations exist for several biological BRD precursors, but the multitude of possible precursors complicates the process of choosing a vaccine regime.[9] Additionally, vaccines are not completely effective in stopping the disease, but are merely helpful in mitigation.[13] Many of the problems with vaccine effectiveness rest with improper use, such as failing to time vaccine doses appropriately, or not administering them before shipping.[14]

Vaccines are available for a number of viral/bacterial agents, including IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV, Pasteurella, and Haemophilus somnus.[9] Many of these vaccines can be given simultaneously, because of their similar dosing schedule. For example, IBR, PI3, BVD, and BRSV vaccines are often sold in combination with each other.[15]


In the absence of vaccination (often because calves are bought unvaccinated), antibiotics can help to stop the bacterial factors of the disease. The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends Micotil, Nuflor, and Baytril 100 as newer antibiotics that do not need daily dosing, but also notes that Naxcel, Excenel, and Adspec are effective as well.[12]

Stress managementEdit

Stress often serves as the final precursor to BRD. The diseases that make up BRD can persist in a cattle herd for a long period of time before becoming symptomatic, but immune systems weakened by stress can stop controlling the disease. Major sources of stress come from the shipping process[16] and from the co-mingling of cattle.[9]

Weather may be another possible factor. Cases are more common in the fall (although this is the traditional time to sell cattle), and while the relationship between weather and BRD is poorly understood,[7] it is often suggested to avoid transporting cattle during extreme weather.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The name "shipping fever" is also sometimes used for related diseases affecting livestock including sheep, goats, and horses.[5]


  1. ^ Griffin, D (1997). "Economic impact associated with respiratory disease in beef cattle". Vet. Clin. North Am. Food Anim. Pract. 13: 367–77. doi:10.1016/s0749-0720(15)30302-9. PMID 9368983.
  2. ^ Lillie, L. E. (1974). "The bovine respiratory disease complex". The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 15 (9): 233–42. PMC 1696627. PMID 4370742.
  3. ^ Fulton, R. W.; Confer, A. W. (2012). "Laboratory test descriptions for bovine respiratory disease diagnosis and their strengths and weaknesses: Gold standards for diagnosis, do they exist?". The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 53 (7): 754–61. PMC 3377458. PMID 23277642.
  4. ^ "The Latest On Shipping Fever". Beef Magazine. 2000-07-01. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  5. ^ "What is shipping fever?". Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  6. ^ Snowder, G. D.; Van Vleck, L. D.; Cundiff, L. V.; Bennett, G. L. (2006). "Bovine respiratory disease in feedlot cattle: Environmental, genetic, and economic factors". Journal of Animal Science. 84 (8): 1999–2008. doi:10.2527/jas.2006-046. PMID 16864858.
  7. ^ a b c d Taylor, J. D.; Fulton, R. W.; Lehenbauer, T. W.; Step, D. L.; Confer, A. W. (2010). "The epidemiology of bovine respiratory disease: What is the evidence for predisposing factors?". The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 51 (10): 1095–102. PMC 2942046. PMID 21197200.
  8. ^ Brogden KA, Lehmkuhl HD, Cutlip RC (1998). "Pasteurella haemolytica complicated respiratory infections in sheep and goats". Vet. Res. 29 (3–4): 233–54. PMID 9689740.
  9. ^ a b c d e Bovine Respiratory Disease, Clell Bagley and the Utah State University Cooperative Extension.
  10. ^ Zecchinon L, Fett T, Desmecht D (2005). "How Mannheimia haemolytica defeats host defence through a kiss of death mechanism". Vet. Res. 36 (2): 133–56. doi:10.1051/vetres:2004065. PMID 15720968.
  11. ^ a b Bovine Respiratory Disease "Shipping Fever" in Cattle Archived April 4, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Ram Kasimanickam / Washington State University Veterinary Medicine Extension, 2010
  12. ^ a b Recognition and Treatment of Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex, John F. Currin and W. Dee Whittier / Virginia Cooperative Extension
  13. ^ Vaccination to Control Bovine Respiratory Disease (Presentation) Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Amelia R. Woolums
  14. ^ Taylor, J. D.; Fulton, R. W.; Lehenbauer, T. W.; Step, D. L.; Confer, A. W. (2010). "The epidemiology of bovine respiratory disease: What is the evidence for preventive measures?". The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 51 (12): 1351–9. PMC 2978987. PMID 21358927.
  15. ^ Bowland, S. L.; Shewen, P. E. (2000). "Bovine respiratory disease: Commercial vaccines currently available in Canada". The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 41 (1): 33–48. PMC 1476343. PMID 10642871.
  16. ^ a b Management Approaches to Reduce Transportation Stress Risk for BRD, Washington State University Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine Extension