Heartache: Bovine Congestive Heart Failure A Growing Concern


By Greg Henderson, Drovers

August 3, 2022


Veterinarian Randall Raymond sees too many dead cattle that are close to the finish line.


“Those late days-on-feed mortalities are both frustrating and expensive,” says Raymond, director of research and veterinary medicine at Simplot Land and Livestock.


Indeed, the incidence of bovine congestive heart failure (BCHF) is increasing throughout the industry, especially as cattle are fed to heavier end points.


Over the past several years, late-term losses have spiked to 30 to 40 mortalities per week in one major feedyard during peak heat season due to bovine congestive heart failure. Additionally, several catastrophic events have been catalogued in the Northwest and Midwest in the past few years where hundreds to thousands of animals have died in signi­ficant heat stress events lasting 48 to 72 hours. These devastating losses have prompted Raymond and Simplot, which operates two large feedlots in the Pacific Northwest, to invest in research to identify root causes and robust solutions for BCHF.


Simplot began with intense training of feedyard personnel to accurately diagnose the stages of heart failure upon gross necropsy. Simultaneously, pen riding staff were trained to assess the subtle and early signs of cattle experiencing cardiac insufficiency. Simplot then partnered with Gencove Inc., a company that develops software for genome sequencing applications in agriculture and humans, to launch a research project that recorded heart and lung scores on 20,000 cattle from a diverse cattle population representing all major beef and dairy breeds.


Cattle were phenotyped at harvest using a standardized cardiac scoring system. Incidence of end-stage heart failure varied significantly by breed type, with more than 5% of black-hided calves in normal scheduled harvest shipments assigned heart scores consistent with end-stage heart failure. Simplot says the project confirms a dramatic prevalence of this syndrome in U.S. cattle, a condition it says can be greatly reduced through genetic selection...


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