Trends in mortality ratios among cattle in U.S. feedlots

Loneragan GH, Dargatz DA, Morley PS, Smith MA

OBJECTIVE:To evaluate trends in feedlot cattle mortality ratios over time, by primary body system affected, and by type of animal.

DESIGN:Retrospective cohort study.

ANIMALS:Approximately 21.8 million cattle entering 121 feedlots in the United States during 1994 through 1999.

PROCEDURES: Yearly and monthly mortality ratios were calculated. Numbers of deaths were modeled by use of Poisson regression methods for repeated measures. Relative risks of death over time and by animal type were estimated.

RESULTS: Averaged over time, the mortality ratio was 12.6 deaths/1,000 cattle entering the feedlots. The mortality ratio increased from 10.3 deaths/1,000 cattle in 1994 to 14.2 deaths/1,000 cattle in 1999, but this difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.09). Cattle entering the feedlots during 1999 had a significantly increased risk (relative risk, 1.46) of dying of respiratory tract disorders, compared with cattle that entered during 1994, and respiratory tract disorders accounted for 57.1% of all deaths. Dairy cattle had a significantly increased risk of death of any cause, compared with beef steers. Beef heifers had a significantly increased risk of dying of respiratory tract disorders, compared with beef steers.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Results suggested that although overall yearly mortality ratio did not significantly increase during the study, the risk of death attributable to respiratory tract disorders was increased during most years, compared with risk of death during 1994. The increased rates of fatal respiratory tract disorders may also reflect increased rates of non-fatal respiratory tract disorders, which would be expected to have adverse production effects in surviving animals.

Citation

Loneragan GH, Dargatz DA, Morley PS, Smith MA. Trends in mortality ratios among cattle in U.S. feedlots. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001; 219:1122-1127.