Pneumonia Threat Highlighted

UK - Nearly 60 per cent of farmers have lost calves to pneumonia in the last year with over half seeing the disease in more than five per cent of their youngstock.
calendar icon 20 December 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

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That’s the headline finding from a recent (autumm 2011) independent disease incidence and management survey of over 750 UK cattle farmers. However, despite the widespread prevalence of pneumonia the survey results also show some encouraging signs that livestock producers are improving disease management practices.

“When it comes to preventing calf pneumonia problems on UK cattle units, it is reassuring to see that farmers are recognising the importance of good management practices. For example, nearly three quarters of the respondents (74.5 per cent) said they pay good attention to colostrum feeding and over 85 per cent are attempting to manage the environmental risk factors,” points out James Allcock from the XL Vets practice Lambert, Leonard and May, who advised on the survey project.

“There are also encouraging signs in the way farmers are treating animals showing signs of the disease. Nearly 50 per cent now claim to be using a combination antibiotic/anti-inflammatory product, such as Resflor.

"This is what we would recommend for treating clinically sick animals; an effective antibiotic is required to kill bacteria quickly to stop the disease spreading further and the anti-inflammatory reduces inflammation, limiting permanent lung damage and also helping to ensure a speedy recovery. The fact that half the farmers participating in this survey are using combination treatment is encouraging, and is a definite improvement on the situation found in surveys around five years ago,” James Allcock says.

But as we move into the peak disease period on UK units, the survey findings also highlight opportunities to improve disease management practices still further. For example, only a third (33.5 per cent) of farmers actually claim to involve their vet in trying to prevent pneumonia problems and only 27 per cent routinely vaccinate against the disease, despite there being range of very effective vaccines available.

“If you have suffered from a bad pneumonia outbreak it’s well worth asking your vet to help you review disease management approaches on your unit. An independent head can often spot something quite simple that if addressed could improve the situation considerably.

“If you have had a particularly severe outbreak of disease, it may be worth asking your vet to investigate whether any particular pathogens were implicated. This can help your vet design an appropriate vaccination regime. But in the survey, 40 per cent farmers claimed never to have had an investigation of a pneumonia problem,” James Allcock says.

Generally speaking though, James Allcock explains that pneumonia is a complex disease caused by an interaction between various infectious agents (whether bacterial, viral or both), the environment and the immune status of the individual animal. A preventative approach – involving broad-spectrum vaccination – and good management are the key to controlling the risk factors that increase the chance of the disease hitting your unit, he says.

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