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Kansas State University faculty answer cattle producer disease and feed questions

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Kansas State University (KSU) Beef Cattle Institute’s (BCI) podcast Cattle Chat hosted KSU BCI Veterinarians Bob Larson and Brian Lubbers and BCI Clinical Assistant Professor Phil Lancaster on Nov. 4 to discuss a variety of questions in regards to topics impacting cattle producers. 


“Anaplasmosis is a disease of the blood, in other words, there is bacteria infecting red blood cells. Red blood cells are destroyed, so the animal basically doesn’t have enough oxygen-moving capacity,” mentions Larson. “The interesting thing is, this disease is moved from one cow to another through blood by ticks and other insects or with human activities – using a needle or a palpation sleeve can move anaplasmosis organisms from one cow to another.” 

He notes there are parts of the U.S. where this disease is common and most herds have immunity to the disease, but some producers may occasionally lose a cow to anaplasmosis. 

It’s important to note, as the disease moves to new areas, cattle herds are completely susceptible. 

“It’s certainly a disease which can cause death in otherwise healthy adult cattle,” shares Lubbers. “There is not a long list of diseases which will do that.” 

Lubbers adds, “It typically affects older cows. Younger cows do a better job of regenerating new red blood cells – they typically don’t die at the rate of an older cow, because they can regenerate blood cells.” 

Another important consideration for anaplasmosis is the time of year. Depending on the part of the country a producer is in, anaplasmosis is typically not a disease seen in October, November or December. 

“I’ve seen it in every month of the year, but the bulk of the cases are in late summer to early fall,” says Larson. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t see cases at other times.” 

Treatment and prevention 

Because this is a bloodborne bacteria, it’s susceptible to some antimicrobials, or medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants. Tetracycline antibiotics traditionally are used to treat the disease. Other antimicrobials used can be either chlortetracycline or oxytetracycline. 

“There is one other product which has conditional approval for treatment of anaplasmosis which is enrofloxacin, otherwise known as Baytril,” says Lubbers. “If treating with Baytril, producers have to use Baytril 100 with conditional approval.”

“It’s important to have a veterinarian involved because the earlier it can be diagnosed, the better,” says KSU Professor and Cattle Chat Host Brad White. “Treatment is going to take care of the parasite; but it won’t fix the blood problem, so we don’t always see those affected cows respond all too well.” 

Larson points out feeding tetracycline in a mineral is not always the best way to treat infected cows because there is not consistent daily intake across the herd. Theoretically, producers can feed tetracycline to prevent the disease, but there are some drawbacks to this method.  

Vaccinating for anaplasmosis is another option, but there is currently not a great vaccine on the market. Larson shares there is research being done at KSU to develop an anaplasmosis vaccine. 

“I’m hopeful for a vaccine in the future, but this disease has been very difficult to build effective vaccines which are safe to use in animals,” he shares. “I’m hopeful and have my fingers crossed [the industry] will have something in the future, but right now, prevention is hard.” 

Beta agonists  

“Beta agonists are drug products, and in food production, they are labeled for production with claims of increased growth and rate of gain and improved feed efficiency,” mentions Lubbers. “The most basic explanation of how beta agonists work are they preferentially partition to lean muscle.”

Most beta agonists are used in the feedlot and during the end of a feeding cycle. These products are approved for use in the U.S., but not approved in several other countries. When the U.S. exports beef to other countries, it can become an issue. 

“Roughly 15 years ago, China stopped beef imports from the U.S., and within the past five years the market has opened, but there is a specific beta agonists called ractopamine which cannot be used in those cattle marketed to China,” says Lubbers.    

“For certain export markets, producers were not feeding beta agonists,” says White. “As a nation, the U.S. was not feeding any of it, but recently, the U.S. began feeding some of it according to labeling requirements – I think we’re coming to those different levels and we don’t see a big change or shift, but people are going to respond to the market and incentives.” 

Rice bran  

Lancaster mentions rice bran is a byproduct from the rice milling industry for preparing rice for human consumption. Rice bran is not a coproduct.   

“A coproduct is when a manufacturer has some specifications they try to meet with the product, and a byproduct is really something they have and has some value, but they just want to get rid of it – they don’t want to put any extra cost into it and want to get rid of it for whatever value it has.” 

He says one problem with feeding rice bran is the nutrition content of the product varies a lot because manufacturers don’t have to put any effort into maintaining a certain quality.

“The issue with rice bran is it’s highly variable and, particularly with the fat level, this becomes a problem for two reasons,” he says. “One, if producers get a batch with a really high fat level and get the total fat in the diet up above seven percent, it will decrease feed intake in feedlot cattle, and if there is a high level above five percent, it negatively affects forage digestion.” 

“My advice for use is to make sure producers are testing each batch because it can be so highly variable,” he concludes. “It’s not something I’d buy as a commodity and use as a supplement to any animals.” 

It’s important to note rice bran is a high protein, high energy, dense feed and rice wholes are very low protein and low energy. A testing lab would be necessary to test rice bran, and producers should ask for a fat percentage analysis before feeding rice bran. 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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