Bovine Disease Diagnostics at Your Fingertips

Researcher developing Web-based disease, biosecurity tool.

Cattle producers soon will find that the latest tools to keep their herds healthy and the food supply safe are as close at hand as their desktop or laptop computer.

Research at Kansas State University is leading to the creation of software that will help cattle producers on two fronts. Mike Sanderson, associate professor of production medicine at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, is involved in research that will help producers maintain secure feedlots, as well as research that will help producers understand the impact of specific diseases.

The feed yard security project is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Animal Health Department. Sanderson's research involved surveying feed yards across the state, from those with about 1,000 head of cattle to those with more than 125,000 head. The research is leading to the development of software to evaluate biosecurity and biocontainment at feed yards.

The computer program asks producers about their practices, from those that impact biosecurity - like where they import their cattle - to questions of biocontainment, such as sanitation and how much contact healthy and sick cattle have with one another.

"It will identify areas of potential weakness," Sanderson says. "Because it's difficult to do something like this and provide complete information, we'll recommend producers consult with a veterinarian about the assessment."

Sanderson's other project is the development of a Web-based modeling tool to help cattle producers evaluate the impact of cow-calf diseases on their herd. Although such modeling is common regarding the financial risks of beef production, Sanderson said that in the beef industry it is more unusual to find such modeling tools for disease risk.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project is working on a software program to assess the health risk and economic impact of two diseases, bovine viral diarrhea and trichomoniasis. Producers will enter information like the size of their herd and the number of imported cattle, and the program will provide a multiyear simulation of the production and economic impacts if these diseases were introduced into the herd and the economic impact for the producer.

When the project is complete, producers and veterinarians will be able to use the program by visiting a Web site. The Web-based program will offer added insight to disease risk and cost and supplement the expertise of the local veterinarian.

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