High altitude disease and cattle

Producer Question from 2010

Q:  Are cattle with high altitude disease safe to eat? (September 5, 2010)

A:  Brisket disease is another name for high altitude disease. Clinical signs vary with the degree the animal is affected. Signs can range from depression to swelling in the brisket, abdomen and jaw region -secondary to edema, jugular pulse, diarrhea, poor appetite, bulging eyes, exercise intolerance, and death. The disease can affect all ages of cattle but most commonly seen in younger cattle. Most often seen at elevations above 7000 feet, but has been seen at elevations of 5000 ft. Examining the chest cavity can usually make diagnosis of Brisket Disease. When the chest cavity is opened there will usually be an abundance of fluid within the chest. The heart will be a rounded shape instead of its normal conical shape.

The carcass can be condemned depending on the severity of the disease in the animal. If you are going to a custom packer, have your veterinarian take a look to determine the severity of the disease. If the carcass is not condemned, there may be some or a lot of trimming.

Dr. Rick RasbyDr. Rick Rasby, Professor of Animal Science
Animal Science, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE