Vet Viewpoint: Mild weather means more pneumonia

A regional monthly round-up of key veterinary issues from members of the XL Vets group.

Charlotte Baikie, Westmorland Vet Group, Cumbria

With nights drawing in and temperatures dropping, winter is here. Most stock has been housed, which has kept us busy with the usual problems this brings.

Now would be a good time to check the condition of teat-cup liners. General wear and tear will cause the liners to lose their shape, leading to liner slip during milking and chemicals used will lead to liners roughening and splitting. This damages teats and allows bacteria to collect in the liners, both of which increase the risk of mastitis. It can also increase milking times and bactoscan readings.

The main things to look out for are cracks, splits or twisting of liners, and any roughness or black residue. Other signs include any teat discolouration or swelling after milking, irritable cows during milking and slower milking times. It is recommended that liners are changed every 2,500 milkings.     

Keith Cutler, Endell Vet Group, Wiltshire

Pneumonia season suddenly seems to have arrived, with requests for visits to treat sick calves, post-mortem dead animals and explain why vaccines “have not worked”.

Even when vaccines are used at the correct time, it is important to remember that no vaccine will provide protection against all the infectious causes of calf pneumonia. Pneumonia is a multifactorial disease with environmental conditions. The adequacy of ventilation in cattle sheds, group composition and nutritional status also have an impact.

Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) causes immunosuppression, so vaccines are less effective. If affected animals are home-bred, do you know your herd’s BVD status and how are you managing and eradicating this virus? If your calves are bought-in, are you certain none of them are persistently infected?  Why not buy calves identified with a white “tag and test” ear tag, showing they have been tested?

Leona Robertson, Northvet Vet Group, Orkney

As the seasons change, so does the type of pneumonia we see. Autumn brought a lot of husk, creating a devastating effect in both youngstock and adult cows. Despite treatment, cows have taken months to recover and were not in the best of conditions at housing.  

As housing is stressful for young calves, we always expect pneumonia outbreaks in the youngstock. This year has been no different.  Weaning, dosing, clipping, change of diet and housing all cause stress, contributing to disease outbreaks.

November was uncharacteristically mild here, with temperatures in double figures and not much wind. In poorly ventilated buildings, milder weather has led to a greater number of pneumonia cases than seen in previous years. Get your vet to advise on prevention, including improvements to ventilation and vaccinating stock, to help reduce instances of the disease.

Steve Borsberry, 608 Farm and Equine Vet Surgeons, Warwickshire

I am a big fan of teat sealants, but am concerned that, due to the depressed price of milk, some farmers will try to cut costs (approximately £700 for a 100-cow herd) by not using them. New infections commonly occur in the dry period and therefore preventing two cases of mastitis covers the costs of the use of sealants.

This time of year provides a good opportunity to check ventilation. I must admit I prefer suckler calves/stores to have their backs clipped out. In a small trial I did a few years ago, clipped-out calves gained a little more weight, compared with non- clipped.

We have been involved in the five-point plan for controlling lameness in sheep. It has been difficult to persuade some clients not to trim feet, but early identification, treatment with topical antibiotics and/or an antibiotic injection has proved extremely successful.