In the UK, the cost of infectious respiratory diseases in young calves has been estimated at £60 million a year1. It is the most common reason for death and poor performance in calves and young, growing cattle.
Calf pneumonia is the result of a complex interaction between viral and bacterial pathogens, environmental stress factors, and the animal’s own resilience to disease.
Calf pneumonia causes inflammation and damage of the lung tissue and airways, compromising lung function. In severe cases the damage is irreversible and can result in death, but even mild cases can significantly increase the cost of production.
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Calf pneumonia impacts heavily on production costs. The average cost of a calf pneumonia outbreak has been calculated as a minimum of £43.25 per sick calf1. Daily liveweight gains, targeted at 0.8 kg/day, can drop as low as 0.4 kg/day after an episode of respiratory disease. This growth check directly increases production costs, and can result in reduction in lifetime productivity. This is why so many farmers are choosing to vaccinate.
Meet Tina, a calf rearer, who takes in up to 150 calves from various different farms and occasionally from the market. When the calves come to her, she does not know what colostrum they’ve had or how well they have been looked after, hence they are high risk. Tina recognises that calf pneumonia is one of the biggest risks and often one of the main killers of calves. By working closely with her vet, she ensures that she is kept fully informed of any new vaccinations on the market to identify what best suits her needs. As stated by Tina, “We vaccinate for a healthy calf because a healthy calf is going to grow more and be bigger, and the bigger it is, the more profit there is going to be for me.
Click here to watch Tina
Benefits of Vaccination
Vaccination against calf pneumonia in young and growing animals is a cost-effective method of reducing disease when implemented as part of a pneumonia control plan which addresses other environmental and management risk factors. Selecting a vaccine which contains relevant viruses and bacteria and observing best practice when using vaccines will optimise the protection they provide.
A recent study showed that the use of vaccines is associated with higher eight-month heifer weights. On farms where all heifers were vaccinated for pneumonia, calves reached an average of 274 kg, approximately 47 kg more than those that were not vaccinated2.
What is #CALFMATTERS?
#CALFMATTERS is a vaccination campaign from Merial Animal Health which supports our veterinary customers in encouraging farmers that have not vaccinated against calf pneumonia to vaccinate their calves by helping to reduce the overall cost of vaccination.
- Andrews A.H. (2000) Calf pneumonia costs. Cattle Practice Vol 8 Part 2, 109-114
- Welsh Dairy Heifer Report (2015) Hybu Cig Cymru