Although prime cattle prices remain steady and are up around 3-4% on last year, beef farmers should still be looking to maximise output from their system.
As we head into winter, and cattle are housed, one area to really focus on is the respiratory health of the animals.
Many farmers see low grade respiratory problems as a fact of life. However, although the disease may be mild or even not show at all, underlying damage to the respiratory tract can limit growth rates.
Long-term impact of low-grade pneumonia
In one study nearly 500 calves were monitored over 15 months from birth to slaughter, when the lungs were assessed for damage from respiratory disease. Although 35% of the calves had been diagnosed and treated for pneumonia, at slaughter 72% were found to have lung damage. This included 68% of the apparently ‘healthy’ calves which outwardly had never showed signs of disease.
Lung lesions were associated with lower growth rates, with calves gaining 21kg less during the fattening period compared to calves with healthy lungs.
This highlights the impact hidden disease can have on farm profitability. It also highlights the importance of putting in place control measures, such as vaccination, to protect animals from Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).
Farmer saves £53,513 over 10 months by vaccinating for BRD
Cattle finisher Andrew Laughton from Louth, Lincolnshire, wanted to see whether he could maximise growth rates.
Finishing up to 6,000 cattle a year, Mr Laughton knew if he could increase growth rates by as little as 0.01kgs a day, across the number of animals he’s finishing, that could equate to thousands of pounds.
He enlisted the help of vet Molly McKay by signing up to the veterinary practice’s Beef4Life contract, which aims to review the whole farm system and identify areas for improvement.
Prior to signing up for Beef4Life, the health of Andrew’s animals appeared to be good, with only a small proportion of animals requiring antibiotic treatment, including just 4.8% for pneumonia.
However, as part of her farm review for animal health, Molly visited the abattoir to examine the carcasses, and on examining the lungs found that approximately 60% of the animals had lung lesions from pneumonia. Many of the animals also had liver lesions consistent with a previous fluke infection.
As a result of the abattoir data, and concerned that the high percentage of cattle affected by pneumonia may not be performing to their best, Mr Laughton decided to introduce a pneumonia vaccination programme to see whether improvements in ADLWGs could be made.
A vaccine trial was initiated using a single dose intranasal pneumonia vaccine Rispoval® IntraNasal, which protects against bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSv) and parainfluenza type 3 (Pi3), and an intra-nasal IBR vaccine, Rispoval® IBR marker live vaccine.
A comparison of vaccinated animals from the period November 2016 to August 2017 with unvaccinated animals going through the system in a similar period in previous years, found vaccinated animals gained on average an extra 0.18 kg per day.
This may not seem much, but it equates to an extra £31.68 per animal, and an increase in revenue of £51,670 over this 10-month period.
When comparing periods from pre- vaccination to when vaccination was in place, they also saw a 21% reduction in pneumonia antibiotic treatments and a 47% reduction in mortality. The savings from reduced treatment costs and dead calves alone was around £15,119.
When you take the increase in revenue from extra kgs, the reduction in pneumonia costs and the cost of vaccines into account there is a net gain of £53,513 over 10 months - a clear return on investment.
Andrew buys cattle from a range of sources, so doesn’t know the health history of individual animals. He says in an ideal world all the animals he buys would already have been vaccinated to prevent pneumonia cases early on. In the future, he hopes he may be able to implement an integrated system to add some consistency to the way animals are managed.
Just because you don’t see lots of coughing calves doesn’t mean respiratory disease isn’t affecting your profits!
If there is one take home message from reading this blog, then it’s not to leave pneumonia vaccination until you have cases in your herd. Vaccination may seem like an unnecessary cost, but the reality is it could actually save you money by preventing the negative impact of subclinical respiratory disease on growth rates, protecting animal health and helping maximise animal performance.
Rispoval® RS+PI3 IntraNasal contains modified live PI3 virus, strain ts RLB103 and modified live BRSV, strain 375. For the active immunisation of MDA positive or negative calves from 9 days of age against BRSV and PI3 virus, to reduce the mean titre and duration of excretion of both viruses. POM-V
Rispoval® IBR-Marker Live contains attenuated gE negative BHV-1 strain Difivac. For the active immunisation of cattle to reduce the clinical signs of IBR, reduce virus shedding and to reduce BHV-1 associated abortions. POM-V
For further information please see the product SPC, or contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support 0845 3008034. http://www.zoetis.co.uk/. Always seek the advice of your medicines provider. Use medicines responsibly (http://www.noah.co.uk/responsible). AH736-17