Two new products help you spot sick animals quicker, better define your herd health program

Jennifer E. Engen

As the 2022 NCBA Trade Show kicks off, companies showcase the latest technologies to help simplify managing your herd’s health.

Ear Tag For Spotting Sick Animals

Merck Animal Health, through its Allflex Livestock Intelligence division, has introduced an illuminating electronic ear tag that can help feedlots spot sick animals quicker. Called SenseHub Feedlot, the thumb-size tag mounts on the inside of the animal’s ear flap and monitors both body temperature and movement of the animal. If either of those readings fall outside of a normal baseline set in the first 48 hours after application, it sends a message to a cloud-based system that the feedlot manager can access. It also triggers a flashing green LED light built into the ear tag that a feedlot pen rider can see, and sort the animal off for treatment.

“It can help detect illness, including bovine respiratory disease (BRD),” says Jason Nickell, Merck cattle veterinarian. “Cattle can hide symptoms of illness, making it very challenging for even experienced pen riders to find sick ones. This removes the guesswork.”

Sometimes, he adds, the system will call out an animal, and the pen rider will say, “But he doesn’t look sick.” It’s because SenseHub catches the sick ones so early.

The SenseHub tag can be removed and reused in other animals for three years. Over that time, a feedlot may go through up to nine turns, with the tag reused each time. The tag costs $29 to start, with a $4 reactivation charge every time it is reused. If it gets used nine times, that makes the cost about $7 or $8 per animal, says Nickell.

“In our tests, we’ve seen a 2% reduction in mortality with SenseHub, compared with just relying on the pen rider. We think that makes this system worth about $20 per head, or even more with labor savings,” says Nickell.

It won’t replace pen riders, but will make them more efficient, he adds.

Herd Health Simplified

Confusing. That may be the word to best describe your attitude toward herd health vaccinations, treatments, and management practices. There are hundreds of products and recommendations out there, each claiming to solve your problems. What works?

That’s not an uncommon question among beef producers, says Mark Alley, a veterinarian and beef technical services representative for Zoetis. “Deworming is a good example,” he says. “Worm loads can depend on the year, the weather, the pasture conditions, the general health of the animals, and more. We don’t know what it’s going to be from one year to the next. It’s hard to create a formula for herd health that’s guaranteed. It’s confusing.”

That’s why Zoetis recently introduced an online survey that individual producers can take called Herd Health Simplified. You start by going to There, you walk through a series of questions about your herd, location, calving program, heifer replacements, and common herd problems. Then the survey will give you a suggested herd health program, including products and when to consider them. It will deliver those suggestions by email, which you can show to your local veterinarian as a starting point for a year-around herd health program.

The products will be Zoetis products, but that’s not really the point, says Alley. “What it attempts to do is give you a starting point to a healthier herd in a simplified, low-confusion manner. 

“We know there are no formulas that fit everyone, but there can be vaccination building blocks. For instance, for the cow herd the two major viruses are IBR and BVD, and this will show you where to consider including them in your vaccination program. In calves, we’re often trying to control BRD and preparing them for moving to the next stage of production. That may be included in your suggested program.”

The survey takes about five minutes to complete, and gives you have a simple suggested program. Every herd should probably go through an analysis like this at least once a year, Alley says.

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