True cost of pneumonia is hitting herd efficiency hard

Do you know what percentage of your herd has been permanently affected by pneumonia? Or, more to the point, how much this could be affecting your bottom line?

Evidence shows many producers are unaware of the true cost of pneumonia, the disease’s incidence in their herd and the effect it could be having on production. But, while visual signs are difficult to recognise early on, it is important to treat rapidly to reduce the chances of permanent damage, Schering-Plough vet adviser Andrew Montgomery said at the launch of a new pneumonia treatment.

“Developments in effective and rapid treatment are particularly timely, as trends suggest average ages at slaughter need to decrease, in response partly to the demise of headage payments. To maximise returns, animals should be finished as soon as possible,” he added.


“Although costs vary, it is important to consider the cost of death and treatment is only half the story. The incidence of lung damage is inextricably linked to growth performance, a reduction in average daily weight gains coupled with reduced yield, could mean a reduction in weight gain of up to nearly 300g/day.

  • Account for production losses
  • Clean environment and ventilation essential
  • Treat with combination of anti-inflammatory and antibiotic treatments
And a recent study of lungs extracted immediately post-mortem from 469 apparently healthy steers, suggested that alongside 35% being clinically treated for pneumonia, a staggering 72% showed varying degrees of lung damage.

Causes of pneumonia are numerous, explained Mr Montgomery. “The bovine physiological make-up means the species is susceptable. Cattle have small lungs for the size of the animal, narrower airways and are somewhat under-lunged compared with animals of the same size, with 43% less lung capacity than horses.

“And the more condition animals carry, the more work is put on to these vital organs, exacerbating the problem. They have no extra capacity, which hinders growth capabilities. Coupled with bacterial and viral infections, environmental effects, such as building ventilation, mixing of different age groups and quality of bedding, increase the chances of infection.”


But it shouldn’t only be the loss of production that should be of concern to farmers, according to Royal Vet College chief dairy lecturer John Fishwick. “Pain and discomfort caused by pneumonia means there are considerable welfare issues, which are becoming more prevalent within cross-compliance.”

Until now, producers have been somewhat deterred from treating pneumonia due to the cost of administrating separate injections of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. However, a single subcutaneous injection combining both, Resflor, has been launched by Schering-Plough Animal Health, both increasing treatment success and reducing costs, claims the company.

Targeted at treating the three main pneumonia inducing bacteria, the 2ml/15kg injection ensures rapid recovery and lung protection, which, when combined with a holistic approach to treatment, improves the armoury available to farmers in the battle against pneumonia.

Using this combination of an antibiotic combined with anti-inflammatory has three key advantages, explained Mr Fishwick. “When administered early, anti-inflammatories will reduce inflammation in the lungs, ultimately reducing the amount of long-term damage done. The analgesic component will induce pain relief, while the antipyretic decreases temperatures, allowing animals to return to normal behaviour, increasing productivity.”

Minimising lung damage as early as possible is essential to maximise future performance, added Mr Montgomery. “Reducing inflammation and, therefore, improving blood flow allows antibiotic to access the site of infection for a more effective bacterial kill. A single injection reduces both labour and expense while increasing effectiveness.”

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