January 25, 2018

Interpretive Summary: Economic Impacts of Lameness in Feedlot Cattle

Economic impacts of lameness in feedlot cattle.

In a recent study published in the December 2017 issue of Translational Animal Science, researchers evaluated data collected from multiple feedlots over multiple years to estimate the economic impacts of lameness in feedlot cattle. Results show that there is a positive return on cattle with foot rot, foot rot heavy, and injuries, but that cattle with joint infections and whom are lame with no visible swelling had negative returns. Further research based on specific management protocols is required.

Lameness can have negative impacts on cattle welfare, health, and production, and it can cause pain and discomfort that can reduce mobility; lame cattle often have reductions in feeding periods and overall health. This can lead to substantial economic impacts, including longer recovery periods, increased days of feed, cost of treatments, premature removal from feeding, and death losses. The objective of this study was to estimate the economic impact of lameness on multiple feedlots over multiple years using decision tree models, and to estimate net return of various lameness diagnoses and impact of cattle type, season of treatment, and extreme high and low cattle prices.

To determine results, a dataset was created using health records collected over a time span of 2005-2015 from chute side by Vet Agri Health Services, Airdrie, Alberta, Canada. Records were collected from 28 southern Alberta feedlots, ranging in size from 800 to 20,000 head one-time capacity. The study consisted of producer-collected data compiled in a computer software program. Records from cattle diagnosed as lame in various categories were used: foot rot, foot rot in heavy cattle, injury, lame with no visible swelling, and joint infections. Variables were then created to reach the study’s objective: DOF (days of feed), ADF (defined as weight on date of treatment minus the weight on date of arrival divided by DOF), and a categorical variable of season.

Ultimately, the average cost of a healthy animal was $710 as compared to $861 for cattle diagnosed and recovered from foot rot. The average cost of treatment for foot rot in heavy cattle was higher than that of cattle diagnosed with foot rot. The cost of treatment and recovery for cattle diagnosed with infection was $1,674, which were the highest compared to all other diagnoses studied. Cattle diagnosed with injuries cost $1,138, and cattle that were lame with no swelling had the highest overall cost of $2,087.

While further research is necessary, the present study can conclude that implementing prevention and mitigation strategies, such as earlier lameness detection and managing different cattle types accordingly, may reduce the occurrence of lameness in feedlots and reduce overall costs. Further research based on specific management protocols would help assess the total economic impact of lameness in feedlot cattle in feedlots and may provide specific management tools that more effectively mitigate the economic impact of lameness in feedlot cattle.

To view the full article, “Economic impacts of lameness in feedlot cattle,” visit Translational Animal Science.