Count true cost of pneumonia

28 April 2000

Count true cost of pneumonia

By James Garner

PNEUMONIA outbreaks are under-costed, particularly in suckler herds, according to independent vet consultant Tony Andrews.

Speaking at the British Cattle Vet Association conference, Dr Andrews said his study, conducted with the National Animal Disease Information Service, was probably the first multi-site on-farm study into pneumonia costs involving outbreaks on commercial farms.

His conclusions were that the cost of pneumonia in a suckled calf at £82, was close to twice that in dairy bred calves at £43, with overall disease levels being underestimated.

Reasons for higher costs in sucklers than dairy-bred animals are due largely to greater weight loss during outbreaks and higher death rates. "Weight loss is a hidden cost, but weight loss or reduced weight gains during an infection were the highest costs."

In suckled calves, weight loss accounts for 40% of the total expenses of an infection, this is as much as both vet and medicine outlay combined. But it was particularly in sucklers that weight loss was underestimated by producers.

Mr Andrews added that most pneumonia outbreaks occurred in mild, moist weather with high humidity.

There were also some other factors that may have added to pneumonia problems, such as mixed-age groups sharing air-space and two-thirds of the herds having inadequate ventilation.

Another factor, particularly on dairy farms, was that six out of eight herds underfed calves. This was partly because producers hadlittle idea how much calves were being fed each, and that although calf numbers a pen may increase, feed levels remain the same, he said.

Costs of pneumonia are often underestimated, with weight loss a key factor, says Tony Andrews.

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