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Five Point Plan to Tackle Calf Pneumonia

21 August 2014

UK - A helpful mantra to simplify calf health plans has been devised by animal health company Zoetis.

The Zoetis five-point action plan is: Improve building function; manage grouping and group size; vaccination and parasite protection; monitor growth rates; and involve your vet.

A pneumonia-free rearing period can be worth £243/head in suckler cales and over £1,000/head in dairy heifers, research shows.

To support the Pneumonia Vaccination Awareness Initiative, a set of advisory materials has been produced and is available via vets and as a download from the Zoetis website.

The centrepiece is a pair of detailed Controlling Respiratory Disease practical booklets, one beef and the other dairy.

Zoetis veterinarian Carolyn Hogan says now is the time to vaccinate, ahead of the stressful housing period.

"This avoids what happened to a number of farmers in 2012, for example, when sudden deterioration in the weather meant an unexpected early start to the housing period before vaccinations had been completed," she said.

“Over the 10 year period 2004 to 2013, Met Office weather records analysed by Zoetis identify a maximum range of about six weeks between any one location's earliest and latest likely housing dates.”

The calculated gains from pneumonia-free status are demonstrated as 'Impact Timelines' in the booklets. In suckler calves, the £243/head at stake arises from treatment costs, delayed finish and carcase downgrade. In dairy heifers, treatment costs, later age at first calving, reduced first and second lactation yields and shorter lifetimes compared with healthy ones amount to £1,008/head over the animal's lifetime.

Moreover, the impact of respiratory disease can extend beyond animals with clinical pneumonia, Carolyn Hogan explains. "Some farmers accept low grade respiratory problems like moderate coughing and runny noses as facts of life," she says. "But despite the signs being mild, underlying damage to the respiratory tract can restrict growth rates."

She cites a 15-month, 500-calf study from birth in which lung damage was assessed at slaughter.

While 35 per cent of calves had been diagnosed and treated for pneumonia, 72 per cent were found to have lung damage. Among the apparently healthy calves that had shown no signs of disease, just over two-thirds (68 per cent) had damaged lungs.

The study also found an association between lung condition and growth rates, calves with undamaged lungs gaining 21kg more than those with damage over a nine month finishing period.

One specific obstacle to helping more farmers is a myth identified by recent Zoetis research that some regard vaccination as an admission that their stockmanship is lacking.

Reality is just the opposite, according to Carolyn Hogan, in that pneumonia vaccination has become the norm on professional, high performance beef suckler, beef finisher and dairy heifer rearing units.

She says the initiative's long term aim is to assist farmers and their vets develop resilient, profitable production systems and take advantage of rising global demand for high quality beef or dairy products alike.


TheCattleSite News Desk


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