6 September 2002

Pneumonia risk greatly increases if housing poor

By Richard Allison

MORE than one-quarter of herds suffered a pneumonia outbreak last winter, but the pathogen type depends on reg-ion, according to a vet survey.

Intervet surveyed 80 cattle vets, representing more than 10,000 herds. The vets said housing remains the top risk factor for pneumonia, says company vet James Allcock.

Vets scored more calf buildings as poor than excellent. Dairy units tended to have better housing and units in the south scored more highly. Mr Allcock believes this reflects the lower demand on housing in more dairy areas.

Having more enc-losed housing in the colder north could also be a factor, but it is possible to achieve airy buildings without any draughts.

The main limiting factor is that many producers dont have cash to invest in buildings, so they are looking at vaccines and other tools to help manage risk, says Mr Allcock.

Nearly 27% of herds surveyed suffered an outbreak last winter, but only one in six went on to diagnose the responsible agent. "This is surprising, as only 8% of vets questioned felt confident in their ability to diagnose the pneumonia organism by observation."

Mr Allcock believes this may reflect a good response to general treatment of infected animals, so outbreaks may not be investigated further. In addition, the after-effects of foot-and-mouth, the number of samples taken for further investigation.

Most vets felt that using a vaccine capable of giving protection from a range of pathogens was good practice, as it is impossible to predict which pathogen will be a problem. "One year it could be pasteurella, the next RSV," says Mr Allcock.

The survey also revealed that vets based in the midlands believe that infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) is a less significant problem than vets in other areas of the UK. This may reflect the different ages of calves, as IBR is thought to be a problem in calves more than six months old, while younger ones are more likely to suffer respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and pasteurella.

In Scotland and the north, calves tend to be older when housed for the winter finishing period compared with the midlands where more dairy calves are prevalent, says Mr Allcock.

Similarly, more vets believe autumn born calves should be vaccinated than spring-born, as spring born animals are less likely to be threatened by RSV. &#42

&#8226 Housing is a factor.

&#8226 27% of herds affected.

&#8226 Age of animal.