Media Coverage

K-State research assesses impact of cutting metaphylaxis on cattle industry


Jul 02, 2018 - Animal Pharm
By Sian Lazell 
Animal Pharm
July 2, 2018 


A new study by Kansas State University has indicated the economic impact of eliminating the metaphylactic use of antimicrobials on US feedlots could be as much as $1.8 billion a year.

Agricultural economists and veterinary medicine faculty conducted analysis of the economic impact of treating groups of high health risk animals with antimicrobials. They found if metaphylaxis was eliminated in the US cattle industry without suitable health management alternatives, it could cost the industry as much as $1.8bn annually.

Metphylaxis is mass treatment with antibiotics to eliminate or minimize an expected outbreak of disease. According to the USDA, metaphylaxis is used selectively by 59% of US feedlots on 20.5% of all cattle placed on feed.

The K-State findings are based on data from 10 large Midwest feedlots. The researchers analyzed production and health management data from cattle classified as high health risk and administered an antimicrobial upon entering the feedlot.

Animals were classified into three weight categories to determine differences between treating high health-risk animals compared with those not treated.

They analysis showed for 550-pound animals, producers would lose on average $104 per head by not treating those high health risk cattle. For 700-pound animals, the figure would be $99 and for 850-pound animals, losses would be $64 per animal.

Ted Schroeder, a livestock economist with K-State Research and Extension and professor of agricultural economics, explained the impact of removing metaphylaxis or any animal health management technology from feedlots.

He said: "A lot of that direct cost would be absorbed by the feedlot but a very significant amount of it would go back to cow-calf producers who are supplying calves. Even if they are supplying healthy calves, they are still going to be influenced because overall the feedlot sector’s costs get passed down because they are a margin-taker.

"It's a very important issue not only for the feedlot sector but for the cow-calf sector and consumers as well."

Elliott Dennis, a K-State doctoral student who worked on the study, added: "We know that if metaphylaxis were not available, a reduction in revenue would result from reduced average daily gains, increased feed conversions, higher health costs from treating more sick animals, more deaths primarily for those high health risk animals.

"That reduction in profitability would then be passed up and down the beef supply chain, ultimately resulting in higher prices for consumers to pay for beef at the supermarket. Consumers, when facing higher beef prices at the supermarket would then (choose) other meat products besides beef."

Prof Schroeder concluded: "Our goal was to make sure that as such policy options are being debated that at least folks are informed about what kinds of economic impacts alternative strategies like this could entail."

The full study by K-State can be found here.

Reprinted with permission of Animal Pharm News

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