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Abstract

Risk factors for bovine respiratory disease in Australian feedlot cattle: use of a causal diagram-informed approach to estimate effects of animal mixing and movements before feedlot entry.

Abstract

A nationwide longitudinal study was conducted to investigate risk factors for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in cattle in Australian feedlots. After induction (processing), cattle were placed in feedlot pens (cohorts) and monitored for occurrence of BRD over the first 50 days on feed. Data from a national cattle movement database were used to derive variables describing mixing of animals with cattle from other farms, numbers of animals in groups before arrival at the feedlot, exposure of animals to saleyards before arrival at the feedlot, and the timing and duration of the animal's move to the vicinity of the feedlot. Total and direct effects for each risk factor were estimated using a causal diagram-informed process to determine covariates to include in four-level Bayesian logistic regression models. Mixing, group size and timing of the animal's move to the feedlot were important predictors of BRD. Animals not mixed with cattle from other farms prior to 12 days before induction and then exposed to a high level of mixing (≥4 groups of animals mixed) had the highest risk of developing BRD (OR 3.7) compared to animals mixed at least 4 weeks before induction with less than 4 groups forming the cohort. Animals in groups formed at least 13 days before induction comprising 100 or more (OR 0.5) or 50-99 (OR 0.8) were at reduced risk compared to those in groups of less than 50 cattle. Animals moved to the vicinity of the feedlot at least 27 days before induction were at reduced risk (OR 0.4) compared to cattle undergoing short-haul transportation (<6 h) to the feedlot within a day of induction, while those experiencing longer transportation durations (6 h or more) within a day of induction were at slightly increased risk (OR 1.2). Knowledge of these risk factors could potentially be used to inform management decisions to reduce the risk of BRD in feedlot cattle.