Bovine Congestive Heart Failure Increasing in Cattle Feedlots

The beef sector is seeing bovine congestive heart failure more often in feedlots. Director of SimGenetic Development at the American Simmental Association Luke Bowman says it’s something the industry doesn’t discuss much.

“Cattlemen in general and probably all livestock breeders select for extremes rather than optimums, so we want to maximum the absolute number of pounds we sell at weaning time or slaughter time because that yields more dollars. However, what we are doing is we are getting these cattle to perform like racehorses, and they absolutely outperform and grow like crazy, but are all of the rest of the organs keeping up with them? We don’t know. So, if their hearts can’t keep up with all this maximum growth and fat they are putting on at the late stages of the game at the feedlot, they literally have heart attacks and die.” 

Sometimes, external factors enter into the equation, but Bowman says a lot of times it is genetics.

“Why are we getting these cattle that just get to 1,500 pounds and just shut down on the feedlot side of the commercial business? And some things that came out of that, these cattle are being fed in pretty arid areas and the heat gets to them, and the black hide can be affected. And then, we’re finding that crossbred cattle seem to be thriftier and survive better and science points to that. And crossbreeding is something that’s extremely important for calf vigor at birth, for weaning weight gain at weaning time, but we’re also finding crossbred cattle later in life, when they’re carrying that extra condition, seem to be thriftier and survive the feedlot experience at a higher rate than straight bred animals.”