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Abattoir Study Highlights the Need for Lung Protection Therapy when Treating Cattle for Pneumonia 23/11/07

Pneumonia-induced lung damage could be costing some cattle almost 74kg a year in lost lifetime growth potential with even moderate damage resulting in animals losing 39kg over an 18 month beef finishing system.

Blade Farmimg beef animals

Blade beef animals

These startling figures - newly announced results [November 20th, 2007] from a major collaborative study between Schering-Plough and Blade Farming - suggest that some producers may not be treating cattle pneumonia as effectively as they could. The project also highlights how better abattoir feedback can be used to improve cattle pneumonia management regimes on farm.

In the study, 645 commercial beef animals from 15 units were examined at slaughter for evidence of lung damage. Data on carcase weight, age and grade were also collected to allow estimated daily live weight gains (EDLWG) to be recorded.

According to project co-ordinator Paul Williams MRCVS from Schering-Plough, the research team recorded a significant level of pneumonia-induced lung damage in the slaughtered cattle.

"Nearly half the cattle (48%) examined on the slaughter line had some level of lung damage. But there was also huge variation between units, with all the cattle from one particular farm having damaged lungs," he said.

The researchers also established that the extent of lung damage was strongly associated with reduced EDLWG. "The more lung lobes that are affected, the greater the potential daily liveweight gain loss and those cattle that had the most lung damage experienced a significant reduction in EDLWG of 202g per day throughout their entire lifetime.

"For the animals with any degree of lung damage (310 cattle), the average reduction in weight gain over 14 months was 15kg - equivalent to a financial loss of £16.90 per animal based on a live weight price of £1.10 per kg. So the overall loss for this group of animals was potentially £5,239 - money the industry simply cannot afford to lose," Paul Williams stressed.

Blade Farmimg beef carcases

Blade Farmimg beef carcases

"In addition, those carcases with lung damage were significantly more likely to have a lower conformation grade and so receive an even lower price," he explained.

Blade Farming managing director Richard Phelps pointed out that the study had convinced him that paying closer attention to minimising pneumonia-induced lung damage could easily make some beef producers an extra £40-£50 an animal.

"Anything we can do to help our producers become more efficient is most welcome and minimising the lung damage pneumonia causes is a good example of where we can relay useful information down the chain," he commented.

"All the cattle we take look healthy, but I've been surprised at the level of undetected lung damage once the animals have been slaughtered. This lung scoring trial work in the abattoir is now helping us assess just how much lung damage diseases like pneumonia can cause. The feedback will be able to help producers reassess early stage rearing issues and be more vigilant. It's not just grading issues that we are concerned about.

"Apart from the mortality and treatment costs, lung damage from pneumonia leads to lower growth rates and increases days on feed. For maximum supply chain efficiency we want the opposite and innovations in the field of pneumonia treatment are to be welcomed," Richard stressed.

Blade Farming consultant veterinary surgeon Rob Drysdale from the Westpoint Veterinary Group stressed that whilst pneumonia prevention should be the number one objective for all cattle producers, having an effective disease treatment protocol in place is increasingly vital - and particularly one that prevents permanent lung damage from occurring.

"Pneumonia infections can quickly damage lungs and once this happens the animal will not be able to express its full genetic potential," he stressed.

"This means that even if the affected animal survives it is likely to have damaged lungs for the rest of its life, and this will reduce productivity and growth."

To try and prevent pneumonia-induced permanent lung damage, Rob Drysdale always recommends combination treatment, which involves fast, effective and proven antibiotic therapy in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory.

"If your treatment is given early and combines an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic, it will reduce the amount of lung inflammation and fluid in the lung air sacs (alveoli). Combination treatment will also reduce fever and pain - which means the animal will be more likely to return to feeding quickly and become productive again," he said.

Schering-Plough's Paul Williams explained that trials on commercial UK farms with the latest pneumonia combination treatment show that the disease management strategy is working well, but momentum needs to build if producers are to address the potential growth setback problems identified in the lung study. Upgrading pneumonia treatment objectives was the key message.

"In today's market, livestock farmers should expect their pneumonia treatment to deliver both fast, visible recovery AND protect the lungs for future growth," he stressed.

"Latest trial work suggests this can be achieved by the latest combination pneumonia treatment. For example, 17 pneumonia outbreaks were monitored last winter by commercial vets in practice. On the first veterinary visit, calf temperatures were taken as an indication of the severity of the pneumonia with depression and respiratory scores also recorded. The animals were then treated with the Resflor pneumonia treatment that combines antibiotic and anti-inflammatory therapy in a single injection. As little as six hours later the independent vets re-visited the units to assess the success of the treatment.

"Across the 17 outbreaks, all calves that were particularly sick - identified as those with an average enrolment temperature of 104ºF or over - recorded an average fall of over 2ºF within six hours of the combination treatment injection. This brought the temperature down to well below the accepted 103ºF fever threshold.

"The respiratory and depression scores also markedly improved within six hours. Farmers also reported visible improvements, early return to feeding and marked animal recovery immediately post-treatment. Encouraging results that show if producers are prepared to upgrade their pneumonia treatment protocol, lifetime production potential need not necessarily be compromised," he concluded.

link Meat Export Restrictions Finally Lifted for Most of GB
link NFUS Urges Farmer and Public Vigilance for Avian Flu
link Farmers Offered Financial Help To Investigate Causes of Cattle Abortions


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