Pneumonia costs dairy farmers over £1,000 a heifer

Each case of calf pneumonia could be costing farmers more than £1,000 a dairy heifer and up to £243 a suckler calf.

This is according to new data published by Zoetis, which is launching a awareness initiative in August and September, including a five-point-plan, helping farmers avoid these losses this coming winter.

“The aim is that we want farmers to start thinking about their plans now to give time to make any changes, such as to buildings,” said Zoetis vet Carolyn Hogan at a press briefing.

See also: Maedi visna infections in sheep on the increase

“We decided to look at the data to try and gain a scientific cost of the problem. Losses are often underestimated with farmers seeing the immediate cost, but there are much longer term costs.”

Looking at a dairy calf, the immediate cost of the clinical disease in the subsequent five weeks is £43. But there are also effects on age at first calving and subsequent milk yields.

She looked at published scientific papers and found the figures correlated well on the impact on date of first calving and milk yield, “so looks like a robust data”.

“The delay to first calving is two weeks and milk yields are reduced by 4% in the first lactation and 8% in the second. And cows are culled 109 days earlier.”

When combined, she estimated the total cost of pneumonia was £1,008 a dairy heifer.

A similar exercise for beef calves found a £120 cost for a moderate case and £243 for a severe case.

To help farmers plan now with their vet, Zoetis has come up with a five-point action plan. This is to:

  1. Improve building function
  2. Manage grouping and group size
  3. Vaccination and parasite protection
  4. Monitor growth rates
  5. Involve your vet

A key reason for starting early is so that the six-month protection from vaccination is established before cattle undergo stress associated with housing and it will protect them until turn out. “This means giving the first dose in August or September depending on location.

“It avoids what happened to a number of farmers in 2012, for example, when a sudden deterioration in the weather meant an unexpected early start to the housing period before vaccinations had been completed,” she said.

More information including practical booklets entitled Controlling Respiratory Disease, one beef and the other dairy, will be available from Zoetis in August.