New products

Two new products help you spot sick animals faster and better define your herd health program

As the 2022 NCBA Trade Show kicks off, companies are showcasing the latest technologies to help simplify your herd health management.

Ear tag to spot 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 faster. Called the SenseHub Feedlot, the thumb-sized tag mounts inside the pinna of the animal’s ear and monitors both body temperature and animal movement. If any of these readings fall outside of a defined normal baseline within 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 operator can see, and sorts the animal for processing.

“It can help detect diseases, including bovine respiratory disease (BRD),” says Jason Nickell, veterinarian at Merck. “Cattle can mask the symptoms of disease, making it very difficult for even experienced riders to find sick people. This takes the guesswork out.

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

The SenseHub Tag can be removed and reused in other animals for three years. During this period, a feedlot can complete up to nine rounds, with the tag being reused each time. The tag costs $29 to start, with a $4 reactivation fee each time it’s reused. If used nine times, it costs about $7 or $8 per animal, Nickell says.

“In our testing, we saw a 2% reduction in mortality with SenseHub, compared to just using the pen. We think that makes this system worth around $20 per head, or even more with labor savings,” says Nickell.

This won’t replace pen runners, but will make them more efficient, he adds.

Simplified herd health

Confusing. This is perhaps the word that best describes your attitude towards vaccinations, treatments and herd health management practices. There are hundreds of products and recommendations, each claiming to solve your problems. What works?

It’s not an uncommon issue among beef producers, says Mark Alley, veterinarian and beef technical services representative at Zoetis. “Deworming is a good example,” he says. “Loads of worms can depend on the year, weather, pasture conditions, general animal health, etc. It is not known what will be from year to year. It It’s hard to create a guaranteed herd health formula. It’s confusing.”

That’s why Zoetis recently launched an online survey that individual growers can complete, called Herd Health Simplified. You start by going to There you go through a series of questions about your herd, location, calving schedule, heifer replacements, and common herd issues. Then the survey will give you a suggested herd health program, including products and when to consider them. He will email these suggestions to you, which you can show to your local veterinarian as a starting point for a year-round herd health program.

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

“We know that there are no formulas that suit everyone, but there can be basic elements of vaccination. For example, for the cow herd, the two main viruses are IBR and BVD, and this will show you where to consider including them in your vaccination program. In calves, we often try to control BRD and prepare them to move on to the next stage of production. This can be included in your suggested program.

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