Helping a billion bovines

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Experts research respiratory disease prevention

By Kirsten Peters

You and I have our challenges and some real worries, too. There are bills to pay and doctors to visit, to say nothing of mulling over those strange sounds coming from the rear of the car.
But I confess, I thought the life of a cow was rather placid. Eating and sleeping, I would have guessed, pretty much summed up the existence of the more than one billion bovines that share the planet with us.
But as I’ve recently learned, both beef cattle and dairy cows often have trouble just catching their breath.
It’s not that they are gaily running across their pastures, frolicking joyfully in the sunlight, until they simply overdo it. It’s that they are suffering – and I do mean suffering – from serious infections of their respiratory tracts.
The problem is caused by a malady called Bovine Respiratory Disease or BRD. It kills more than a million animals each year in the U.S., resulting in a loss of about $700 million to American ranchers and dairy farmers.
Those are staggering figures, well known to those involved with the beef and dairy industries but oddly outside the world of typical Americans who see the food chain on which they depend only via aisles in the supermarket.

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