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Four key steps in treating cattle

Beef producers deal with infectious conditions throughout the year. Challenges such as respiratory disease, scours, footrot and pinkeye keep you hopping with preventive tactics. When that fails, it's time to pull the sick ones and treat them.

If you have calves hitting the ground this spring, scours will be the next big health challenge. The people responsible for finding and treating sick cattle at your place probably have varying skill and experience levels. But, regardless of the disease or the caretaker's experience, the keys to successful treatment are the same.

- Identify sick cattle early in the disease process.

- Correctly identify the disease and causative agent.

- Administer appropriate therapy.

- Monitor sick cattle to continue therapy in a timely manner if needed.

We can all probably agree on these important steps. But how do we tell if they're getting done?

Identifying Sick Cattle If you evaluate cattle for illness, you're either consciously or subconsciously picking out signs of disease. These signs make up your "case definition."

Writing down a case definition for a disease is a way of teaching others with less experience. If the definition accurately represents your criteria for selecting sick cattle, then it's also valuable for "adjusting your dial" if the results suggest you're treating too many cattle or getting to them too late.