Veterinary graduate student selected as Seaboard American Royal scholar

By Gabriella Doebele, College of Veterinary Medicine student communications assistant

AshLee Lattner, Ph.D. student in veterinary biomedical studies, was selected as a 2018 Seaboard American Royal scholar. Lattner is one of 12 scholars selected from across the country.

AshLee Lattner is a Ph.D. student in veterinary biomedical sciences and a graduate student with the Beef Cattle Institute.

The Seaboard Royal Scholarship program is designed to provide opportunities for outstanding college students to advocate for leadership, the food and fiber industry, and the American Royal. Lattner will receive of a $2,500 scholarship award. Scholars will travel to Kansas City, Missouri, in September for the 119th American Royal to participate in tours, PRCA Rodeo and other American Royal events.

“I am incredibly humbled to receive this opportunity to advocate for an industry that has informed my personal development, education and career,” said Lattner. “Building on my agricultural economics and philosophy background, I am now studying beef industry sustainability in terms of system dynamics. More specifically, our team is exploring how production practices affect the interactions and tradeoffs between social, environmental and economic factors.”

Lattner is a graduate research assistant at the Beef Cattle Institute (BCI). She works under Dr. Brad White, director of the BCI, and Dr. Bob Larson, professor in clinical studies. Her research focuses on value generation and supply chain management with an emphasis on sustainability. Her studies seek to further understand beef production terms of land use, ethics, business and economics.

“My animal welfare project is aimed at facilitating information flow throughout supply chains,” Lattner explained. “The goal of my environmental economics project is to establish market-based, sustainable production incentives. This scholarship greatly enhances my ability to perform thorough and applicable research by helping me participate in these educational experiences and engage with appropriate stakeholders for our projects.”

Clinical Update: Managing blue-green algae

Toxins produced by blue-green algae in the presence of chemical runoff, rainfall and hot temperatures can be fatal to cattle. 

The incidence of blue-green algae blooms has been increasing in the last 20 years, said Dr. Steve Ensley, clinical veterinary toxicologist with Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Some evidence suggests the blooms are driven by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural practices used on cropland, or chemical runoff from cities and industrial practices, but neither speculation is backed by enough evidence to determine a cause. The blooms may occur on ponds from June through as late as October, and resemble what Dr. Ensley describes as spilled paint. In the right conditions, usually driven by the presence of nitrogen, phosphorus and rainfall, blue-green algae can produce toxins, he explained.

Mostly likely spurred by nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, rainfall and hot temperatures, blue-green algae, naturally present in most pasture water sources, can enter a rapid growth phase and produce toxins that can cause organ damage and death in livestock and humans.

Most common in the Midwest and Kansas is the microcystin. When consumed, the toxin can cause damage to the liver.

An animal affected by the liver toxin may become lethargic, avoid eating and may die within 24-48 hours following exposure. The animal may go down and liver failure can occur. Another indication of liver toxin is yellowing of the eyes.

Anabaena, or anatoxin, is a neurotoxin produced by blue-green algae. “The neurotoxins they produce can be very potent,” Dr. Ensley pointed out. One form of that toxin, fast-death factor, can kill a human or animal in a matter of minutes following exposure.

“It’s fairly acute, and if they consume enough, they may die right around the pond, or not make it too far from the water source,” Dr. Ensley said.

If a producer suspects a blue-green algae bloom on a pond, contact the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL), Dr. Ensley said. He instructs producers to collect a 500 milliliter sample in a plastic bottle on the downwind side of the water source where a bloom is suspected. Where the algae isn’t concentrated, there may not be enough toxin to detect an issue. The sample should be sent to the lab chilled.

Methods of control
To minimize the risk of blue-green algae toxicity, Dr. Ensley offered a few options. Solar aerators and dyes can help break up the blooms, but the implementation of buffer strips is the most widely used method of control throughout the Midwest. Buffer strips generally consist of grassland to minimize runoff from cropland to ponds.

He also pointed out that often, producers will suspect a blue-green algae bloom on the surface of tanks and waterers, but he said those generally won’t support algae growth. Wells are safe, too, due to limited sunlight.

“Waterers may look like they have moss on them,” Dr. Ensley explained. “They get dirty and the water may not look clean, but it’s rare to have an algae bloom in a water tank or water device.”

If a blue-green algae bloom is strongly suspected or confirmed, producers should move cattle off the pasture containing the affected water source to avoid organ damage and death loss. Contact the KSVDL at 785-532-5650, toll free at 1-866-512-5650, or at Producers with animals needing immediate services should contact their local veterinarian, or may call the Veterinary Health Center Emergency Desk at 785-532-4100. For more information on testing, visit

Dr. Steve Ensley is a clinical veterinary toxicologist with the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (KSVDL) and College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Ensley’s interests are in clinical veterinary toxicology and applied veterinary toxicology research. Food animal veterinary toxicology is his passion.

Vet Call: Health risk when purchasing cattle

By Dr. Bob Larson, DVM
Reprinted with permission from the Angus Journal.

One issue in the buying and selling of cattle that is often not considered until a problem arises is the health aspects of the transaction. While every business deal involves some risk, including health risk, the level of risk is not the same for every transaction and producers and their veterinarians have options to lessen the likelihood and/or extent of negative outcomes.

In general, the less health information that is available for a sale animal, the greater risk the purchaser is taking. In many situations, the seller does not possess specific information about the health of the cattle they are selling or the potential negative outcomes that may occur when the purchased cattle are introduced into the buyer’s herd. Because a number of negative health outcomes can follow the introduction of new cattle into a herd, the buyer needs to beware of taking greater risks than should be reasonably expected.

When purchasing cattle to introduce into an existing herd, some potential health risks include: injury during transport, the stress of transport and a new environment causing a purchased animal to break with disease leading to illness of the purchased animal or transfer of germs or parasites to the herd, the purchase of cattle that have not been exposed to the germs commonly found in the home herd leading to illness of the purchased animals, and purchasing an animal that is a persistent carrier for an infectious disease and exposing the home herd to an unfamiliar germ.

The risk of injury can be decreased though careful handling and good loading, unloading and transport equipment. Good design and maintenance as well as appropriate flooring and bedding in transport trailers. A transportation plan including considerations of length of travel, weather exposure during travel and skill of the driver to avoid excessive fatigue on the part of the cattle being moved are all considerations to reduce the risk of injury of purchased cattle.

Stressed cattle are more likely to become ill, and to shed germs and parasites that can be spread to other cattle. Even when healthy cattle are transported to a clean environment in safe transport trailers, some level of stress can be expected. This potential period of greater susceptibility to disease and greater risk of exposing other cattle to disease-causing germs is the reason veterinarians recommend cattle being added to a herd are separated (quarantined) from the current herd for a period of at least 30 days so the new cattle can become completely acclimated and can have recovered from the stress of being transported to a new environment.

Even though the purchasers of new cattle are often concerned about any germs or parasites the new cattle may bring into their current herd, an equally important risk is that newly purchased cattle may be exposed to unfamiliar germs present in the home herd –– causing the new cattle to become sick. This risk can be addressed by using a period of time after the original 30 days of complete separation from the current herd to allow limited contact of the new additions with a few cattle from the original herd. Older cows or animals that are being culled are often used for this purpose.

Finally, the risk that many veterinarians and producers consider first when protecting a herd from the risk of introducing new cattle is purchasing an apparently healthy animal that is a persistently infected carrier of a disease that is not currently a problem in the herd. There are a number of important diseases that can enter a herd by the purchase of a carrier animal. In my opinion, the diseases that fall in this category that deserve the greatest attention in many parts of the U.S. are trichomoniasis (trich) and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD). Other diseases that have persistent carriers and that may be of particular concern for some herds include: anaplasmosis, Johne’s, and bovine leukosis virus (BLV).

Because of the amount of loss that can occur and our current disease-control abilities, no herd should tolerate the import of cattle infected with trich or BVD. However, for some other diseases that have persistently infected carriers, it is not always wise to insist in imports being free of the disease-causing germs. For example, in some parts of the country where anaplasmosis is extremely common, it may be better to purchase cattle that have been exposed to the organism previously and are themselves carriers. In contrast, if you live in an area with very low anaplasmosis risk, you need to protect the home herd by purchasing cattle that are not carriers. For diseases such as Johne’s and BLV, many herds already have carrier animals, and insisting that purchased replacements be negative won’t make much impact on the current herd’s health status.

My advice is to have plans to keep any cattle potentially infected with trich or BVD out of a breeding herd and to know the status of your herd for any other infectious agents you may want to exclude. Work closely with your veterinarian to develop the best plan for your specific herd to manage the risks of brining in new cattle to your herd. In many situations, it is helpful for your veterinarian to talk to the supplier’s veterinarian so the health status of your herd and the source herd can be compared. You should have a quarantine time when you can watch herd additions closely for at least 30 days. If any of the purchased cattle show signs of illness during that 30-day period –– keep them quarantined longer so that a full 30 days passes after the last episode of illness until the new cattle are allow to have contact with your herd. At the end of the quarantine period, consider exposing the herd additions to older (possibly culls) cattle so that purchased cattle are exposed to the home-herd’s germs and parasites while you can still watch them closely.

Purchasing herd additions that meet the genetic and marketing goals for your ranch is an important part of ranch management. Managing herd additions to limit the health risks involved is an often overlooked consideration in the transaction.

Dr. Larson is a professor of production medicine with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, Edgar E. and Elizabeth Coleman Chair of Food Animal Production Medicine, executive director of Veterinary Medical Continuing Education, and faculty member with the Beef Cattle Institute. His area of specialization is the integration of animal health, production efficiency and economic considerations in beef cattle production. This column is reprinted and redistributed with permission from the Angus Journal.

Research Update: Do darts deliver?

Pneumatic dart delivery of tulathromycin in calves results in lower antimicrobial concentrations and increased biomarkers of stress and injection site inflammation compared to subcutaneous injection

Research by Dr. Hans Coetzee, department head and professor of anatomy and physiology, Kansas State University; Michael D. Kleinhenz, graduate student, Kansas State University; Dr. Drew R. Magstadt, Iowa State University; Dr. Vickie L. Cooper, Iowa State University; Dr. Larry W. Wulf, Iowa State University; Nicholas K. Van Engen, Dr. Joseph S. Smith, Dr. Nathan Rand, Dr. Butch KuKanich, Kansas State University; and Dr. Patrick J. Gordon, Iowa State University with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University

The use of pneumatic darts to deliver medication to livestock animals has been gaining popularity, said Dr. Hans Coetzee, head of the department of anatomy and physiology at Kansas State University (K-State). Due to an increase in the number of reports of the use of the technology by producers and practitioners from the field, Dr. Coetzee, in collaboration with colleagues at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, recently published a study in the Journal of Animal Science detailing the use of pneumatic darts to administer tulathroymycin (Draxxin®) to cattle.

Historically, darting is a practice more commonly used to deliver drugs to wildlife. However, the use of pneumatic darts to deliver medication to sick cattle has seen an increase in some parts of the U.S. In pasture and range conditions, where handling facilities are not immediately available, producers and practitioners have employed the use of darting to administer medication as soon as an illness is identified.

Not a point-and-shoot technology
The team’s first surprise came with the discovery that the darts did not consistently
deliver the drug, Dr. Coetzee said. “There were four out of 15 animals that were successfully darted where the dart failed to deliver the drug altogether.” Darting1

In other cases, trace amounts of the drug were found in the animals, not at levels effective against the bacteria causing the infection, but at levels that could pose a risk of tissue residues or promote the development of antimicrobial resistance.

It’s a significant finding, because when a dart is delivered, it can remain attached to the animal receiving treatment for up to an hour following delivery. Without retrieving the dart, producers would not know if the drug was delivered.

“In all cases, we would recommend that producers label the darts and retrieve them after they are expelled so they know if the drug was actually delivered through the dart to the target animal,” Dr. Coetzee said. Dart retrieval will also prevent the needles from posing a risk to off-target animals and the environment.

A second finding from the study determined animals that were darted had a lower overall exposure to Draxxin® compared to animals that were held in a squeeze chute and injected under the skin. Total drug exposure is a critical requirement for treatment success with drugs like Draxxin®.

“The question our study raised is that with these delivery technologies, is the drug being delivered under the skin or in the muscle?” Dr. Coetzee pointed out. “Drugs like Draxxin® are only approved for injection under the skin. In our study we found that the drug behaved differently in the animal when it was darted versus when it was injected under the skin suggesting that some of the drug may have been injected into the muscle. What we don’t know at this time is whether the site of injection will impact the effectiveness of the drug or the potential for violative tissue residues.” That will take additional studies, he said.

Dr. Coetzee also pointed out a handful of animal welfare concerns surrounding the technology. According to the study, darting appears to result in increased pain sensitivity and inflammation at the injection site, and appears to be more stressful compared to placing animals in a squeeze chute and administering the injection subcutaneously.

Use with caution
Darting can potentially be a useful tool, Dr. Coetzee maintained, but warned producers and practitioners of the limitations to the technology when treating animals.

“There are significant challenges with making sure the drug is delivered correctly,” he said. “If producers are going to use this technology, they should be aware that our study represented the best-case scenario,” he said. “Animals were restrained with rope halters at a fixed distance from an experienced veterinarian who was delivering the dart from a dead rest.”

In spite of this, in one-third of the study animals, the dart was not administered in the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)-compliant area of the neck.

While darting can be a convenient way to deliver a drug in range conditions, Dr. Coetzee concluded, there are significant limitations to this technology that producers should consider before they decide to deliver drugs this way.

Read the published Journal of Animal Science study. 

Dr. Hans Coetzee is a professor and head of the Department of Anatomy and Physiology with Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and interim director of the Nanotechnology Innovation Center of Kansas State (NICKS) and Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine (ICCM). His professional interests include the development of pain assessment techniques and practical analgesic drug regimens for use in food animals.

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Students join BCI for industry education

By Shelby Mettlen, communications and marketing specialist

Beginning May 14, 10 incoming first- and second-year veterinary students joined the Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) at Kansas State University for two weeks of beef industry-related tours, presentations and hands-on demonstrations.

Students Braxton Butler, Izabella Carmona, Lena Fernkopf, Jared Heiman, Ashley Joseph, Megan Westerhold, Meredith Schmidt, Matthew Kelso, Libby Farney and Shanlyn Hefley are part of the Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas (VTPRK), a state-funded effort provided through the College of Veterinary Medicine to return veterinary graduates to rural Kansas to serve counties of fewer than 35,000 residents. The program provides up to $20,000 per year toward academic and professional development to each of five students per class over the course of four years. Graduates of the VTPRK program are required to practice veterinary medicine in a qualifying county for four years following graduation.

During the first week, the students, BCI Director Dr. Brad White and Kelly Oliver, program coordinator, toured a number of beef industry businesses across western Kansas. Starting at National Beef in Dodge City, the group moved to Forget-Me-Not Farms dairy in Cimarron, Cattle Empire in Satanta, Hy-Plains Feedyard in Montezuma, and finished up at Gardiner Angus Ranch and Ashland Veterinary Clinic in Ashland.

“The goal of hosting these students is to prepare our VTPRK students for success in rural practice,” said Dr. White. “BCI works closely with several industries involved in rural practices and we want to work with students to help them gain early experience.”

The following week, the students returned to Manhattan for five days of presentations by industry leaders, tours and cattle-handling demonstrations. The group traveled to St. Joseph, Missouri, May 24 to tour Boehringer Ingelheim and wrapped up the course with Animal Health Commissioner Dr. Justin Smith and Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator David Hogg at the Kansas Department of Agriculture building in Manhattan.

Lena Fernkopf, Circleville, Kansas, enjoyed the diversity of the tours and presentations.

“It was nice to be able to see all aspects of the cattle industry, from feedlot, to dairy, and everything in between,” she said. “I also really enjoyed getting to visit with veterinarians and learn more about what they do on a daily basis and learn more about a career in veterinary medicine in western Kansas. Overall, I think the tours and presentations offered us an opportunity to see many aspects of the industry that many students will not get to see.”

The students were recognized during the college’s 80th Annual Conference for Veterinarians in Manhattan, Kansas, on June 3.