By Patti Wilson Contributing Editor
Those of us who handle cattle know the most redundant problem we face is bovine respiratory disease (BRD). In fact, little progress has been made in morbidity rates for decades. Although we are armed with current vaccines and effective antibiotics, the problem continues to surface annually.
Elanco Animal Health has taken a proactive, top-down approach to head off BRD, developing a product that supports the beginning of a bovine’s journey: The ability to fend off disease. You may think of it as a jump-start to the immune system. Ron Tessman, DVM, Elanco beef technical consultant spends most of his time in the field, working with feedlot veterinarians, vet clinics and cow-calf producers in the area of respiratory disease. Traveling mostly in a six-state area heavy with cattle feeding, Tessman sees the value of a robust immune system firsthand, and the need to support it from the start.
What Is It?
Zelnate DNA Immunostimulant is an innovative technology that jumpstarts an animal’s immune system response at times of stress, resulting in an approved ability to fight BRD. It is the first and only immunostimulant that aids in the treatment of BRD due to Mannheimia haemolytica in cattle four months of age or older when administered at the time of, or within 24 hours after, a perceived stressful event. It can be administered intramuscularly or intranasally, and is mixed chuteside, similar to the way vaccines are handled. Intranasal administration requires an atomization tip attached to the syringe.
Not being an antibiotic or a vaccine, Zelnate is different in that it stimulates the innate immune system, mostly macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell that play an important role in the immune system’s immediate response and carry out various functions, including engulfing and digesting microorganisms and clearing out debris and dead cells.
Macrophages also stimulate other cells involved in immune function. The DNA liposome complex of Zelnate is seen by the immune system as a fragment of bacterial DNA. This triggers the innate side of the immune system into an immediate search-and-destroy mission, which then triggers an immediate response that stimulates the ability of the macrophages to attack bacteria.
What Are the Numbers?
Zelnate improves animals’ ability to fight BRD, so cattle suffer less lifetime lung damage. Studies done over feeding periods have concluded the product cuts down BRD mortality from 4.45 to 3.5 percent, or a relative change of 20.83 percent when compared to a control group. Tessman says healthier lung tissue can be supportive of market-ready cattle that otherwise may suffer from fatigue syndrome at maturity.
There is a 21-day withdrawal prior to harvest, and the product has not been tested on pregnant animals. It contains no antibiotics or preservatives, giving natural beef programs an effective tool to manage BRD.
According to Tessman, Zelnate is not a product that provides an immediate effect but improvement in general health is seen consistently over the entire feeding period to closeout. An alternative method to treating cattle that are “borderline” sick is the administration of Zelnate instead of an antibiotic. It increases good stockmanship and welfare, and decreases the use of antibiotics, a hot-button topic in today’s culture.
Zelnate has been unavailable since mid-2022, but Elanco is pleased to share that this novel technology is back on the market and readily available. According to the Elanco website, “Zelnate is a part of a broad BRD management portfolio that includes vaccines and anti-infectives, and is supported by Elanco technical consultants who can help your business maximize the product’s value.”