Beef producers should ensure that increasing immunity, reducing stress and minimising exposure to disease challenge are priorities at this time of year, according to the latest advice from EBLEX.
At housing time there are a number of potential sources of stress that can increase the susceptibility of young cattle to bovine respiratory disease (BRD). The negative impact of stress factors are cumulative, so the more stress factors young cattle are exposed to, the greater the risk of a pneumonia outbreak and consequent reduction in performance will be. Producers should ensure the following measures are taken in order to minimise the risk of BRD:
- Avoid disbudding and castration at stressful times such as weaning
- Keep herd groups stable
- Handle calves quietly and maintain a regular routine
- Give access to creep feed (housing diet) in the field prior to housing for suckled calves
- Check requirement for lungworm or liver fluke control
- Vaccinate prior to housing if risk of BRD is high
- Allow calves to creep outside if the building space is shared.
For store finishers BRD control is made particularly difficult by the frequent lack of knowledge of health status and previous treatments. However, ensuring the following strict routine is followed when any animals enter the unit can help:
- Prepare penning and handling facilities in good time
- Provide immediate unloading into a clean, separate area with clean water access
- Leave the group alone to settle
- Provide feed in clean feeders: diet change is always a significant stress.
Once settled, watered and fed, apply a health management strategy agreed with a veterinarian. This may include:
- Routine checking of weight and condition
- Vaccination for BRD pathogens
- Testing for key pathogens as agreed in discussion with herd vet
Diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and coccidiosis specifically suppress the immune system in the growing calf. Concurrent infection with these diseases represents a large risk for BRD.
Reducing exposure to disease is a key function of providing the right environment for housing cattle. Moisture, fresh air and air speed are the three key environmental factors affecting the prevalence and severity of pneumonia in cattle. In essence this means avoiding the accumulation of moisture in buildings and ensuring a good supply of fresh air but importantly avoiding draughts at animal level.
A review of your housing and action to optimise the factors previously mentioned will prove to be a sound investment of both time and money
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