OBJECTIVE To determine whether animal-to-animal and community contact patterns were correlated with and predictive for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in beef steers during the first 28 days after feedlot entry.
PROCEDURES Calves were instrumented with a real-time location system transmitter tag and commingled in a single pen. The location of each calf was continuously monitored. Contact between calves was defined as ≤ 0.5 m between pen coordinates, and the duration that 2 calves were within 0.5 m of each other was calculated daily. Bovine respiratory disease was defined as respiratory tract signs and a rectal temperature > 40°C. Locational data were input into a community detection program to determine daily calf contact and community profiles. The number of BRD cases within each community was determined. A random forest algorithm was then applied to the data to determine whether contact measures were predictive of BRD.
RESULTS Probability of BRD was positively correlated with the number of seconds a calf spent in contact with calves presumably shedding BRD pathogens and number of calves with BRD within the community on the day being evaluated and the previous 2 days. Diagnostic performance of the random forest algorithm varied, with the positive and negative predictive values generally < 10% and > 90%, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results indicated that direct transmission of BRD pathogens likely occurs among feedlot cattle. The relative contribution of animal-to-animal contact to BRD risk remains unknown and warrants further investigation.