New tech available to protect livestock health

By Jennifer Whitlock

Ranchers have a new high-tech tool to use when sorting new arrivals, according to Dr. Justin Welch, a veterinarian and executive director of Livestock Technical Services at Merck Animal Health.

The company’s Whisper® on Arrival device can quickly and easily detect animals at risk of developing bovine respiratory disease (BRD), he said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network.

The precision technology identifies calves that likely need antimicrobial therapy using lung sound, heart sound, rectal temperature and animal weight.

“It’s basically a stethoscope, just like what you and I get applied to us when we go into a doctor’s office,” Welch said. “It listens to lungs and a number of other data points and makes a decision as to whether that calf needs antibiotics. What we’ve found is, depending on the risk level of the calves, it can decrease antibiotic use by 11-45% upon arrival.”

As calves come into an operation for the first time, it’s important they’re examined carefully for overall health or signs of injury. But some animals may not have detectable signs of BRD or may have very slight signs that are easily overlooked by human eyes.

The Whisper on Arrival veterinary device is placed behind an animal’s elbow on the right side of the chest and takes 8-10 seconds to scan each calf.

The operator enters animal body weight and rectal temperature into a chute-side wireless tablet computer while the thoracic sound data is captured by the stethoscope and transmitted to the tablet.

Within seconds, Welch noted a green or red light flashes to signal if the animal will require medication for BRD control.

“We work with their veterinarian but it’s chute-side, delivered to the animal by the producer and has a paddle to keep their hands out of the chute,” Welch said. “It’s very efficient.”

After use, the device is easily washed off with a water hose and ready for the next group of calves.

Materials from Merck say the Whisper on Arrival system comes with full installation and personal training. The company can also remotely monitor the system to be sure it’s working properly and being used correctly.

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