Suckler herd owners, vets and cattle auctioneers in the north east are planning a significant expansion of a calf health protection scheme, following a recent meeting of participants in Hexham.
At six auction sites* in north east England, this autumn’s sales will feature the SureCalf category of spring born suckler calf. The scheme involves vaccination before sale against three pneumonia viruses—RSV, PI3 and IBR—and the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) virus. This involves two doses given three to four weeks apart, the second at least two weeks before sale, costing the seller up to about £15 a head.
The SureCalf programme’s objective is to minimise the impact of respiratory disease on animal performance following the stress of the sale and moving from breeder to finisher, explains regional vet Colin Penny from the scheme’s creator Pfizer Animal Health.
“The advantage to buyers is that SureCalf cattle are already vaccinated against four viruses commonly associated with post-purchase respiratory disease,” he says. “For sellers, the programme can help maintain a reputation for offering high performance calves with sound health status, and earn a price premium.”
Last autumn, more than 3,000 SureCalf-certified calves were sold at marts predominantly in Scotland with a few in northern England. Over its four years in operation before this year, buyers were prepared to pay an average £34 a head premium over similar types of non-certified animals.
For calves to qualify for the scheme, sellers register at least two weeks before sale, either online or by phone, providing details of animals vaccinated and vaccine used. They are sent a declaration on which to self-certify that the cattle have been vaccinated and registered, and a SureCalf voucher for each animal to accompany its passport to the buyer.
“Increasingly, calf buyers appreciate the value of pre-sale disease protection and see it as a shrewd business decision,” explains Mr Penny. “Minimising respiratory disease means reduced handling, less stress on animals and workforce, lower medicine costs and better animal performance.”
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