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Bovine Respiratory


Bovine Respiratory Disease in Cattle On-farm

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is the most common cause of illness and death in cattle triggered by a complex interaction of stress factors, viral and bacterial infections. A range of factors can predispose cattle and calves to BRD.

Stress can be caused by weaning, transport, sale yards, social restructuring, age, immunological background, dehydration and change of diet. 

Viral infections include Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Pestivirus (BVDV), whilst the bacteria Mannhaemia haemolytica is one of the most common and aggressive bugs involved in BRD.

In the early stages, BRD typically presents as inappetance with cattle appearing hunched and lethargic. As the disease progresses coughing and nasal discharge may be seen and cattle may appear depressed and withdrawn from the main herd. In many animals the disease may go unnoticed, silently impacting weight gain and meat quality.

Like people, cattle get colds. When one person gets a cold it doesn’t take long for it to spread to others. Many of us work through having a cold and cattle are much the same however they have evolved to hide their symptoms to avoid being singled out by predators.

If you see any symptoms of ‘a cold’ then it’s likely that there are many more challenged or infected cattle. During stressful times cattle are more susceptible to ‘catching a cold’. This includes periods such as weaning or where there is high density contact, like trucking or in sale yards. Disease can spread quickly and insidiously so it can be hard to notice.

Research shows that BRD infections in young cattle are responsible for production losses impacting weight gain and meat quality1.

When to vaccinate

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) in paddock cattle

Abattoir data indicates that the occurrence of BRD on-farm is common but often goes undetected. The consequence is depression and loss of appetite causing a reduction in carcass weight and reduced meat quality of young cattle1.

Observations of lungs in abattoirs indicate that sub-clinical BRD is common (i.e. significant numbers of cattle with lung lesions at slaughter were never identified as sick on farm)1.

Other studies show cattle with lung lesions that were not treated for BRD (indicating the disease may not have been identified while the animal was alive) had lower average daily gains (ADGs) compared to cattle with normal lungs2,3,4,5,6,7. Results show that BRD lowers ADG by an average of 100 grams a day, lowering end carcass weight and reducing meat quality.

Australian surveillance data shows that Mannheimia haemolytica (MH) is one of the most common bacterial components of the BRD complex and published data provides evidence of the impact MH can have on young pastured cattle (weaning and/or backgrounding)8.

Typical areas of lung damage

Photo courtesy of Tristan Jubb


Mannheimia haemolytica

Australian surveillance shows that Mannheimia haemolytica (MH) is one of the most common bacterial components of the BRD complex.

In healthy cattle, MH lives dormant in the upper respiratory tract in the throat. When the animal is vulnerable – due to stress and/or viral infections – the bacteria quickly invade the lower respiratory tract causing Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).

This diagram shows the process of MH bacteria living in the throat of a healthy animal, but then progressing down to the lung when an animal is exposed to stress and initiating viruses, like IBR.

Mild respiratory illness and nasal discharge will quickly develop into severe pneumonia and even death once MH gets to the lungs.

Not all affected animals will show obvious signs during a respiratory outbreak, but theyare still likely to suffer a setback in performance.nce.

Early vaccination to prevent infection gives these vulnerable cattle the best protection against MH. Bovi-shield MH-One provides a rapid immune response, providing protection within 7 days and lasting at least 17 weeks from one injection.


For control of pestivirus in young cattle (Australia’s most prevalent and costly viral disease)13, a vaccination program for the breeding herd to reduce the incidence of the disease on-farm is the best approach.

Click here to learn more about Pestivirus


Using a live intranasal viral vaccine provides the fastest onset of protection against IBR. Most importantly this stimulates a highly effective localised immune response, right where the virus attacks.

The most convenient and critical time to vaccinate is at feedlot induction, although vaccination with a highly effective live vaccine on farm is becoming a more common practice. Live intranasal vaccines are available through veterinarians.


Bovi-shield MH-One is a highly effective single shot BRD vaccine for MH in Australia. Bovi-Shield MH-One works fast, giving protection in 7 days.

Rapid coverage is critical in the high stress environment where young, newly weaned, susceptible and unsocialised cattle are involved.

Bovi-Shield MH-One comes as a concentrated vaccine in a freeze dried presentation. This preserves the potency of the vaccine from the day it is manufactured to the day you use it.
It works as a single shot vaccine due to a unique adjuvant that comes with it. This means that the vaccine formulation has superior efficacy and safety over other traditional vaccines.

Profile of One Shot Compared to Two Shot Program

Protection from Bovi-Shield MH-One is achieved within 7 days and maintained at this level for at least 17 weeks. This means you can see the benefits of vaccinating against this disease-causing bacteria on your own farm.

This compares to a traditional two shot vaccine which takes up to 6 weeks to reach the required protective levels.

Schematic representation only. Actual antibody levels will vary in individual animals.

In addition, vaccinating with Bovi-Shield MH-One on farm ensures that your cattle are ready to receive the most effective disease control program at feedlot induction.

Highly effective live vaccines using intra-nasal delivery have been proven to work best at induction to protect your cattle against Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR).

When compared to killed injectable IBR vaccines, a live vaccine using intra-nasal delivery stimulates a highly effective local immune response in the upper respiratory tract9. Importantly this response optimises the performance of cattle on feed.10,11 Live intranasal vaccines are available through veterinarians.


1. Griffin D Animal Health Research Reviews 2014:15(2); 138–141

2. Wittum T et al J of the AVMA 1996:209;814-818

3. Thompson P et al J of An Sc 2006:84;488-498

4. Schneider M et al J of An Sc 2009:87;1821-1827

5. Leach R et al J of An Sc 2013:91;3564-3573

6. Busby D et al TCSCF Data Summary Iowa State Uni 2014

7. Rezac D et al J of An Sc 2014:92;2595-2602

8. Taylor L Aust Vet J 1998;76:21-24

9. Cortese VS et al Veterinary immunology and Immunopathology 187(2017):35-41

10. Duff GC et al Bovine Practitioner 2000:34(1);66-71

11. Step et al KK Vaccine Vaccination 2015:1(3)1-10

12. Confer AW et al Comparative study of bovine Mannheimia haemolytica isolates from Australian and US cattle, Oklahoma State University 2011

13. MLA Report (2015) B.AHE.0010

Further Reading

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