31 October 1997

Cost-effective changes keep pneumonia risk under control

Pneumonia affected one

Bucks-based beef producers

entire herd after housing,

prompting him to make

changes to cattle buildings.

Jonathan Riley reports

SIMPLE, cost-effective alterations to cattle housing can be made to improve ventilation and reduce pneumonia.

After expanding the spring and autumn calving suckler herd at Peter Hawes Meads Farm, Oakley, winter housing capacity had to be increased. Lean-tos were added to the main single span shed to increase housing capacity.

But after housing cattle, pneumonia affected the whole herd and two out of the 30 cattle housed in the lean-tos died. With advice from the local vet, a routine vaccination programme for respiratory syncytial virus was put in place.

"But we also noticed condensation on the underside of the lean-to roof, indicating poor ventilation."

Height to the eaves of the lean-to was only about 2.5m (8ft). With block walls put in up to the height of the animals back to reduce draughts, that meant only a 0.6m (2ft) space was left for ventilation. To improve airflow Mr Hawes removed hooks pinning asbestos sheets to the roof and raised the sheets so he could slide wooden battens, running across the roof line, up under the overlapping sheets.

Corrugated sheets now rest on the battens creating gaps to improve air flow. "Creating these gaps took only about three hours. At the same time we also removed the ridge cover, leaving a gap in the ridge of about four feet. Condensation was cut and together with the vaccination programme these measures eliminated pneumonia last year," he says.

Lessons were learnt when further accommodation was built. The new building is 6m (20ft) to the eaves allowing 4m (14ft) open for ventilation. This is clad with Yorkshire boarding and netting to reduce draughts

"This provides plenty of airflow and last year there were no pneumonia cases during the winter."

Left: Poor ventilation and high stocking densities raise pneumonia risk, warn ADASs Elwyn Rees (left) and Jonathan King (right). Bucks producer Peter Hawes found better housing reduced cases. Right: Corrugated sheets now rest on wooden battens which run across the roof line, creating gaps to increase airflow in winter housing at Meads Farm, Oakley.