Morbidity effects on productivity and profitability of stocker cattle grazing in the Southern Plains.
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Effects of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) on stocker cattle systems are unknown under extensive rangeland environments. Three experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis that BRD-based morbidity is a major factor affecting the productivity and profitability of stocker cattle grazing Southern Plains rangelands. In Exp. 1 (658 male calves; average BW = 231 kg), 17% of the cattle were treated for BRD <8 d, 6% for 8 to 14 d, and 8% for >14 d. Morbid cattle had lower ADG than did healthy cattle (P < 0.10). Cattle requiring 14 d of pharmaceutical therapy gained less than cattle having <14 d therapy (P < 0.01). In Exp. 2, (279 steers and bulls; average BW = 216 kg), the ADG by steers (0.74 kg x animal(-1) x d(-1)) was greater (P < 0.05) than by bulls castrated after arrival (0.64 kg x animal(-1) x d(-1)). Castration after arrival led to a 13.5% loss in daily gain and a 10.3% loss in season-long gain. More (P < 0.05) bulls castrated after arrival (60%) were morbid compared with steers (28%). In Exp. 3, 633 heifers (average BW = 251 kg) were used to test the effects of morbidity on weight gain and reproduction. Heifers with lower initial weights exhibited increased (P < 0.05) morbidity. Heifers requiring two or more antibiotic treatments gained 0.03 kg/d less (P < 0.10) than did healthy heifers and had lower (P < 0.05) conception rates (66 vs. 81%). Conception rate in twice-treated heifers was 19% less than healthy heifers. Morbid heifers conceived 0.6 mo later (P < 0.05) than healthy heifers. Under the conditions of Exp. 1 and Exp. 2, morbidity decreased net returns 9.7 to 21.3% per animal. Adjusted gross returns per animal in Exp. 3 for replacement heifers were 3 to 7.8% less for morbid heifers.