Immune Importance: Beef Cattle

Immune Importance: Beef Cattle

The immune system is a vital component of the overall health and well-being of all animals, including beef cattle. A strong and healthy immune system is essential for preventing and combating infectious diseases and optimizing animal productivity and profitability.


Infectious Disease

Beef cattle are susceptible to a wide range of bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases, which can cause significant economic losses for producers. These diseases can impact animal health and well-being, reduce productivity, and increase mortality rates.

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is one of the most significant causes of morbidity and mortality in feedlot cattle. BRD is a common respiratory illness that affects cattle, caused by a complex interaction of multiple pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and environmental stressors. The disease can cause fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing, leading to significant economic losses in the livestock industry. The immune system plays a critical role in defending against BRD by recognizing and eliminating invading pathogens. The first line of defense is the innate immune system, which includes physical barriers such as mucus, and immune cells such as neutrophils, macrophages, and dendritic cells that engulf and destroy pathogens. If the innate immune system fails to eliminate the invading pathogens, the adaptive immune system kicks in, producing specific antibodies that recognize and bind to the pathogen, or T-cells that can directly attack infected cells. The adaptive immune response can take several days to develop but provides long-term protection against reinfection by the same pathogen. However, BRD can overcome the immune system, leading to a persistent infection and a chronic inflammatory response that can cause lung damage and compromise the animal’s health. Therefore, early detection and appropriate management strategies, including vaccination and antimicrobial therapy, are crucial in preventing and controlling BRD in cattle.


 Immune System Balancing Act

A robust immune system is critical for preventing and controlling these diseases. When a beef cow or calf is exposed to a pathogen, the immune system will recognize it and launch a response to eliminate it. This response involves the production of antibodies, which can identify and neutralize specific pathogens, as well as the activation of immune cells, such as white blood cells, which can engulf and destroy invading microbes. In addition to fighting off infections, the immune system plays an important role in maintaining overall health and well-being. For example, the immune system helps to remove damaged cells and tissues, regulate inflammation, and promote tissue repair and regeneration.


Immunometabolism-The cost of disease

The body makes a lot of adaptations to make sure the immune system has what it needs to combat infection. Animals faced with an immune challenge have a dramatic change in nutrient availability in the bloodstream. Turning on a breakdown of body fat when the animal doesn’t have enough energy. That affects the building blocks of protein synthesis available for normal growth and development.


Immune response must maintain Homeostasis.

In conclusion, the immune system is a critical component of the overall health and productivity of beef cattle. Ensuring that beef cattle receive adequate nutrition, proper housing and management, and appropriate vaccinations and treatments can all help to support a healthy immune system. By understanding the importance of immune function and implementing appropriate management practices, producers can help to ensure that their animals stay healthy and productive, while also promoting animal welfare and sustainability in the beef industry.

Views of a Veterinarian- Dr. Trevor Stapelman, D.V.M.

Views of a Veterinarian- Dr. Trevor Stapelman, D.V.M.

A veterinarian-client relationship is of utmost importance when it comes to establishing animal health protocols. This week Dr. Trevor Stapelman, DVM shares his viewpoint on common practices to maximize health and productivity in beef herds.

Trevor grew up in the Mini-Cassia area of the Magic Valley of Idaho and graduated from Minico High School. He attended the University of Idaho where he completed a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and in Pre-Veterinary Medicine, and then went on to get his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. After graduation Trevor started practicing in Gooding with a vet clinic, later he worked for a dairy coop in Burley, and then went off to start his own practice.

Dr. Stapelman’s practice has evolved over the years, what started out as a solely large animal practice has turned into a mixed animal practice, which has proved to be a good break for him and has allowed him to rest up a bit. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife of 22 years and his 4 children (1 boy and 3 girls). Trevor’s hobbies include roping, spending time in the mountains, hunting, fishing, and doing projects around the home and his hobby farm.


Q: What management aspect is often overlooked in beef herds in Idaho?

A: Oddly enough I would say nutrition and mineral deficiencies. Nutrition is just something that is often overlooked. People are at the mercy of the mountain and graze their cattle on whatever grass is available. That varies from year to year.  It could be dead, dry, or green and lots of the time they aren’t making any mineral available to the cattle. Mineral licks and tubs have come a long way in the past few years, but still a lot of people overlook that.


Q: What are the biggest health concerns you encounter in beef herds in Idaho?

A: Vaccination is not always covered as it should. That doesn’t mean that you must vaccinate for everything. You could go vaccine poor or “insurance poor” if you tried to use everything out there. It’s important to know what is necessary to vaccinate for in your area. I go to some ranches in Nevada and some in Southern Idaho and what vaccines are necessary vary with the terrain and with what disease is most prevalent in the area.


Q: What issues have you witnessed this calving season?

A: This year has been a nightmare with all the cold and wet weather we have had. Most of the issues have had to do with respiratory disease, but there have been some enteric diseases encountered too.


Q: What tools have you used to help correct those problems?

A: Herds with a good vaccination program that they have used for years aren’t bothered as much when we hit weather like we have. But those that skipped the vaccines in the attempt to save money, or for other reasons, really get kicked in the face with the crappy weather.

The vaccines do pretty well at minimizing or avoiding major health issues.  Antibiotics that I have found helpful are Resflor and Draxxin. These newer antibiotics became available after I graduated from Vet School. They are much more effective for helping calves get over respiratory issues than other antibiotics that were available when I was a kid. Typically, we should culture before treatment, but often if I waited that long to treat the animal would be dead.  It’s preemptive but treating respiratory disease with Resflor and Draxxin has proven effective for me.


Q: What management practices could producers implement to avoid or reduce health problems?

A: I can’t stress enough that the saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” translates across animal lines as well. Most of those calfhood pathogens are passed around fecal to oral. We don’t want the calf ingesting whatever nastiness is around.

Rotating calving areas helps a lot, as bacteria can multiply over time. Calving on dry bedding also helps. It can be difficult to do, but dipping the navel is another preventative practice I like to see. If guys are out tagging anyway, that’s a great time to do it.

80-90% of calf health issues can be prevented by making sure that calves receive 1 gallon of colostrum in the first 12 hours of life. I like to see guys tubing 2 qts. of colostrum right away and then another 2 qts. within that 12 hour period, especially if there is a question as to whether or not the calf has gotten up to nurse yet.


Q: What resources would you like to see more available to Idaho beef producers that would help to improve animal health and profitability of their herds?

A: I think there are some resources out there that are not taken advantage of like they should. Every drug company has Tech Services Veterinarians that are there to answer questions, research, and help with protocols when new meds and vaccines come out. Those resources are there, people just don’t always take advantage of them. Maybe we need to advertise and promote them better.


Thank you Dr. Stapelman for sharing your thoughts on cattle health with us!  Stapelman Veterinary Services is a great resource for cattle and mixed animal health in Cassia County. You can learn more about Dr. Stapelman and his clinic by following Stapelman Veterinary Services on Facebook or stapelman_vet on Instagram.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Digestive Disorders in Feedlot Cattle

Digestive Disorders in Feedlot Cattle

Digestive disorders are a relatively small occurrence in feedlots when compared to respiratory problems. Respiratory disease accounts for approximately 80% of illness in feedyards compared to digestive disorders affecting only about 5% of feedyard animals.

Although only affecting a small percentage of animals, digestive disease can be a significant problem. Diarrhea caused by digestive illness can result in decreased treatment response, added medication costs, and increased mortality.


There are four major causes of diarrhea in feedyard cattle.

Parasitism: Unless younger animals are dewormed at the ranch or backgrounder, most cattle are infected with internal parasites, especially those coming off grass. Parasite control is important to keep the animals’ digestive systems functioning correctly. Internal parasites cause damage and affect the immune system, diminishing the ability to fight diease. The result is lower performance, greater death loss, and less salable product.

Animals harboring parasites will often have diarrhea that is green in color, a rough hair coat, and appear unthrifty.


Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD): This virus is widespread, and most herds are at risk of infection. Symptoms of BVD may vary depending upon the immune status of the animal and the strain of the infecting virus. Non-vaccinated or immunocompromised individuals will likely appear to have severe illness with squirting pea green diarrhea that may contain blood, and a high fever. Infected animals will go off feed, may exhibit mouth ulcers and often pneumonia.  Occasionally animals will die very quickly, even before other symptoms present themselves.

Economic losses include increased labor and treatment costs, death loss, reduced gain of the infected animal and in-contact pen mates, and decreased carcass quality. Best management practices for control of BVD include testing for persistently infected individuals, biosecurity, and vaccination.


Salmonella: Widespread and can be found on a large number of farms and in many species of animals. This opportunist bacterium infects the animal at times of immune system suppression, during stressful events when beneficial gut microbiota are disrupted, or when the animal is very young. Infection can range from “healthy” carrier animals that shed the organism without symptoms of illness to those exhibiting acute signs of infection.

When an animal is experiencing multiple stressors the gastrointestinal tract barrier functions can falter and lead to “leaky gut syndrome”. When this happens Salmonella can exit the GI tract and enter the blood system. The lymphatic system will filter the blood and the salmonella pathogen will end up in the lymph nodes and the liver as the infection becomes systemic.

Animals infected with Salmonella may exhibit a fever and their diarrhea is often yellow in color and very foul smelling.


Coccidiosis: Protozoan parasites that are host specific. The oocyst is usually shed in the feces of affected animals and of subclinical carrier animals and is ingested by pen mates. Infection causes both severe illness and possible death, or subtle illness negatively impacting growth and productivity of the animal.

Diarrhea is commonly bloody and stains the rear end of the animal a blackish-green color. Treatment and control include keeping pens clean to prevent ingestion of oocysts as well as use of an anticoccidial regimen to prevent further disease and contamination.


When diarrhea or loose stools are first identified it is important to sort out any nutritional causes before moving on to pinpointing a pathogen. Many times, a ration change or a new shipment of cattle can cause looseness that lasts up to five days. It may also be common to see blood in the stool a few days after beginning to feed grain. Most importantly cattle with nutritional causes of diarrhea will not exhibit the same signs of illness as those with a pathogenic cause.

Control and prevention of digestive disease begins with low stress cattle handling and a sound nutritional program where cattle are received onto rations that will not aggravate digestive upsets.

Keep in mind that cattle with a digestive disease are much more prone to secondary intestinal infections and respiratory disease. Work with your veterinarian to determine effective treatment protocols for infected animals that are appropriate for the type of pathogen.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Use Your 5 Senses When Walking Cattle

Use Your 5 Senses When Walking Cattle

Cattle can’t tell you what is going on with them. As you walk the pen use your 5 senses to identify any animals that might not be feeling well, find those that are in heat, and observe how the pen interacts as a group.



Cattle are prey animals and will do their best to cover up any sickness or weakness they may have, so my observations often begin by sight 1 or 2 pens away from the group I want to observe. I am on the lookout for any animal that is off by itself, animals that are refusing to eat, and animals that might be lame.

As I get closer to the pen, but not in it yet, one very important thing I evaluate is cud chewing. The best time to observe cud chews is a few hours after feeding when all the cattle are resting. Ideally, we want over 60% of the group to be chewing their cud.

After entering the pen, I begin looking at manure, body condition score, and for any cattle with labored breathing.



Next time you walk cattle, close your eyes and listen for the quiet. Quiet means animals are happy and resting. Loud sounds such as balling, or a lot of movement mean the animals may be hungry or stressed.



Believe it or not, there are a lot of things you can assess by feel when you walk cattle. Feel the ground, is it hard, wet, or dirty? If so, cattle may be expending more energy than they should standing or trying to keep warm. Soft, dry bedding allows for cow comfort and will make them more apt to rest and be more efficient in feed conversion.

Feel the feed. Does the chop length look right? How’s the moisture? Are there any foreign objects? All things to consider.

Feel the air. Is it hot, cold, humid? Is there enough ventilation? Is there too much of a draft, could cattle benefit from a wind break? All these factors could impact performance.



“Smells like money”, is what I like to say when someone comments on how cattle smell! But in all seriousness, the different smells associated with an operation can tell you a lot about what is going on and maybe even a little bit about how the money was spent.

On a calf operation, smell of the manure can tell you a lot about the health of the animal. When walking older animals, the smell of the manure may not tell us as much, but there are other smells that can.

Smell of the feed. Did the silages ferment well? Is the feed in the bunk heating?  How about the grain? Any smutty, foul, sour, or moldy smells may give us hints to feed quality and hopefully help us prevent problems with the animals when they are fed.



Okay, I will be honest, this is not one sense that I use much when walking cattle, but I know many people that do. Often, I will see farmers test the kernels in corn silage with their teeth, and taste to test the sweetness. Others may like to try additives, starters, electrolytes, etc. before letting their cattle eat them.

Use all your 5 senses to come up with your own subjective judgement on how the pen is doing as a whole.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Welcome to the Team – Lauren Woloohojian

Welcome to the Team – Lauren Woloohojian

MicroBasics has a new team member! We are excited to welcome Lauren Woloohojian to our team! Lauren’s work experience includes ranch management, producer relations for Danone NA, and technical sales. She will be serving dairy and beef customers in the Pacific Northwest. Here is a little more about her.

Q. Lauren, where are you from?
A. I am originally from Rhode Island, but we moved to Bridport, VT where my family owns a small herd of Guernsey cattle and focuses on genetics and continual improvement of the Guernsey breed. I got involved in agriculture through 4-H, which provided myself and my family the opportunity to “dive head-first” into both raising and showing a variety of livestock.

Q. Where did you go to school?
A. I did my undergraduate at Virginia Tech University and received a B.S. in Dairy Science. I then went on to Graduate school at Texas A&M and earned a M.S. in Agronomy.

Q. What are some of your interests and hobbies?
A. I really enjoy being outdoors and I try to spend most of my free time outside. I have horses and dogs, so if I’m not working with them, I like to hike, bike, fish and workout!

Q. What you are most excited about with your new position with MicroBasics?
A. The enthusiasm behind the entire MicroBasics team is contagious and I am so excited to be part of that. We have some of the most incredibly innovative and beneficial products on the market! I am excited to bring them to dairy and beef producers in the Pacific Northwest.

Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

TomaHawk iL Zn Trial- The Healthy and Natural Feeding of Cattle

TomaHawk iL Zn Trial- The Healthy and Natural Feeding of Cattle

The selection of natural feed additives for calves is growing. Traditionally, ionophores and medicated feed additives appealed to calf growers in an attempt to increase efficiency, growth, and to ward off disease. More recently, as we have learned more about the Gut MicroBiome and its impact on animal performance- prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics technologies are now being utilized.

Peer reviewed scientific literature suggests that the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System can be modulated by biologically active feed additives. The decision to use natural feed additives should be based on scientific research, product effectiveness and return on investment.


Tomahawk iL Zn

Tomahawk iL Zn is a natural feed additive for cattle that consists of yeast culture, yeast cell wall, yeast extracts, bacillus subtilis, yucca  and zinc methionine. This product was evaluated for effectiveness and economic return by a World Renowned Veterinary Group in the western United States.


Experimental Design

In a large-scale trial conducted on a commercial calf grower site, day-old dairy and dairy-crossbred steer and heifer calves at ultra-high risk (UHR) of developing BRD were randomly divided into 2 experimental groups. A total of 1,374 calves were included in the trial.

The Control Group received their normal milk and feed ration, with nothing additional added.

The second group, TomaHawk iL Zn, received the same rations and in addition received 20ml of Tomahawk upon arrival at the calf ranch. Calves were fed 3ml/feeding (total of 6ml/day) during small hutch phase (average of 32 days) and 6ml/head/day of Tomahawk iL Zn in their grain during the large hutch phase (average of 54 days).

Outcome variables were measured from arrival to exit at 240 days (shipping as a feeder, culling, or death) to evaluate the effects of each feeding program on animal health and performance. Statistical analysis was used to determine the probability of whether differences in outcome were due to differences in the feeding programs or by random chance.


Economic Value of Feeding TomaHawk iL Zn


TomaHawk iL Zn vs Control

Overall Mortality


Program Cost


Interest Cost


Net Economic Advantage


From arrival to shipment, there was an economic advantage of $5.34/animal in the TomaHawk iL Zn group compared to the Control group.



Outcomes shown in the chart below are a comparison of the TomaHawk iL Zn treatment group compared to the Control group.




Initial UF (BRD) Treatment



1st UF Treatment Relapse



Initial Gastrointestinal Disease



Overall Mortality

3.56 %


Total Outs (Mortality + Culls)



TP <5.60 g/dl: Total Outs






Feed intake




Initial UF (BRD) Treatment– first treatment given for a fever, most likely to an animal with BRD. A reduction in this number is significant as it indicates that less animals are getting sick.

1st UF Treatment Relapse– sick calves that need a second round of treatments. A reduction in this number indicates that the first treatment is more effective.

Initial Gastrointestinal Disease- calves treated for Gastrointestinal Disease. A reduction in this number would mean less animals are getting sick and having issues in their gut.

Overall Mortality– calves that die and are removed from the trial. A reduction in this number means that less animals are getting sick, and more animals that do receive treatment actually recover.

Total Outs (Mortality + Culls)- sum of deads and culls. A reduction in this number means that less animals die, and less are deemed unfit and culled.

TP <5.60 g/dl: Total Outs– total serum protein under 5.6 g/dl is failure of passive transfer, many of these animals do not make it long term and die or are culled. A reduction in total outs in the group of animals with failure of passive transfer means a larger percentage of them thrive, live a productive life, and do not die or perform poorly enough to be culled.

Feed intake– amount of feed eaten. An increase in this number indicates that the calves are eating better.


“A picture is worth a thousand words”



Calf Distinction/MicroBasics

Each calf rearing system is faced with different challenges. Visit with your veterinarian and nutritionist about the benefits of a natural feed additive.

At Calf Distinction/MicroBasics we believe that the producer should have options that include effective natural alternatives to conventional ionophores and antibiotics. Our product ingredients are researched and set us apart from others on the market in effectiveness and return on investment. You can find them in the Calf Distinction Store.


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

Yeast and Yeast Derivatives – What’s the difference?

Yeast and Yeast Derivatives – What’s the difference?

Yeast and yeast derivatives have been demonstrated to have a wide range of immune enhancing benefits. It can be confusing trying to differentiate what kind of yeast is included in a feed product and understanding what it does. Let’s discuss this a little further in depth!

Whole-Live Yeast: 
single celled fungi.

Improved oxygen utilization in the rumen: live yeast use up the oxygen in the rumen and promote the growth of very important anaerobic bacteria and ciliate protozoa.

Improved fiber digestion: the yeast activates helpful bacteria that digest hemicellulose and cellulose.

Stabilized rumen pH: yeast stimulate the growth of lactate consuming bacteria. These bacteria use up the lactic acid in the rumen which helps to stabilize the pH at 6.2 or higher.

Improved gains and feed conversion efficiency: result of improved rumen environment, nutrient availability, and improved digestion.


Mannan Oligosaccharide (MOS): glucomannan protein complex on the outermost part of the cell wall.

Binds pathogens: mannose molecules act as binding site for pathogens.


Yeast Cell Wall: gives the yeast cell shape, composed of beta-glucan, mannoprotein, and chitin.

Binding pathogens: MOS portion of the cell wall works by binding pathogens on mannose molecules.

Activation of white blood cells: provides nutrients to increase efficiency of white blood cells.

Mitigation of negative effects of stress: pathogen binding and improved gut environment make the animal less likely to be negatively affected by stress.

Improved feed intake: result of improved gut environment and mitigated stress responses.


Yeast Extract: soluble portion of yeast cell, that provides additional nutrients to the animal.

Improved nervous system function

Improved metabolism

Production of red blood cells


Each yeast component contributes to cattle health and performance in different ways. Benefits can be claimed by feeding any one component separately or in combination with each other. Be sure to read feed labels when comparing products, and consult with your nutritionist to determine which components will have the most benefit in your feeding program!

Here at MicroBasics we utilize yeast and yeast components in our products!


Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.