This report describes an outbreak of disease in a Northwestern Iowa feedlot from January to March of 2001. The cattle had been received in the feedlot in July and August, 2000. Clinical signs included severe lameness, recumbency and death. Lameness was not apparent early in the outbreak and the initial diagnosis was central nervous disease. No infectious or toxic cause could be demonstrated. Due to poor performance, approximately a third of the heifers were held back after the main group was sold. Half of these poor performing heifers displayed visible stiffness. Myonecrosis was demonstrated by significantly elevated serum creatine kinase concentrations in visibly affected cattle as compared to visibly unaffected cattle. Histological lesions were confirmed in cardiac muscle but skeletal muscle was not examined. The cattle had been fed a predominantly corn diet with a liquid supplement containing vitamin E calculated at 12.5 IU/head per day until late in the feeding period, when they were switched to a dry supplement delivering 40 IU/head per day. Serum and liver vitamin E concentrations in sampled animals were below the normal range.
Common limitations in field investigations include a failure to test un-affected animals to enable comparisons between groups, testing of animals after disease onset resulting in an inability to demonstrate a temporal relationship between the cause and effect, and small sample sizes. Our case-report suffers to some extent from all these factors; however we suspect that the myonecrosis likely occurred due to Vitamin E deficiency. This presumptive diagnosis is based on the combination of knowledge of vitamin E, creatine kinase, (CK) and Aspartate Amino Transferase (AST) values in the sampled cattle, clinical signs observed, elimination of other possible etiologies and supportive statistical analyses. Investigation of unexplained debilitation in feedlot cattle, especially when accompanied by lameness, should include evaluations of serum and/or liver vitamin E concentrations, serum (AST) and (CK) concentration, muscle histology, and ration vitamin E concentration.
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