Health programme best way to fight pneumonia

5 October 2001

Health programme best way to fight pneumonia

With winter fast approaching, the anticipated increase in

respiratory disease will squeeze hard-pressed profits. This

special, edited by Richard Allison, looks at how

producers can combat respiratory disease. Robert Davies

kicks off with a look at pneumonia prevention

ALTHOUGH many vaccines and antibiotics available to vets are effective in the fight against pneumonia, the best and most cost-effective strategy is prevention.

Based on nearly 60 years of vet experience in Montgomery, Powys, Terry Boundy has extensive knowledge of the welfare and economic consequences of respiratory diseases. "Pneumonia is a complex respiratory condition caused by a variety of viral and bacterial agents."

Visits to Australia and New Zealand convinced him that every UK livestock farm could benefit from a professionally drafted animal health programme. This involves producers meeting vets regularly to work out disease prevention plans, tailor made for individual farm conditions.

"I have preached about prevention plans for many years. Unfortunately, many clients have been put off by fees charged by vets and high drug costs, particularly when farm incomes are low."

The result is many producers turn to their vets for fire brigade treatments, instead of more cost-effective disease prevention advice. Avoiding pneumonia can be part of a health programme by highlighting factors predisposing animals to the condition and planning routine vaccinations.

Mr Boundy recognises it is easy to forget to keep animal stress to a minimum and maintain a strict bio-security regime when introducing new stock.

"Stresses like transportation, sudden changes in nutrition, overstocking, poor ventilation and bad weather can weaken the immune system. This reduces resistance to pathogens, which may already be present in the body or on the farm.

"Bringing stock in from elsewhere can introduce new infectious agents, as can farm visitors, wildlife and contaminated feeds or water. A sound health programme can identify ways of reducing the animals exposure to bacteria and viruses."

The incidence of pneumonia will increase as winter approaches and more livestock are housed. Produc-ers must appreciate that an animals worst enemy can be another animal when housing is overcrowded.

Seek advice on safe stocking densities, he advises. "A calf aged about five months and weighing 150kg needs 3sq m of floor space and 12.5cu m of air space. To avoid a build-up of pathogens, stale air must also be removed and replaced with fresh, clean air."

Where natural ventilation is inadequate, find ways to improve inlet and outlet air flows. This may require some type of mechanical aid, such as a fan.

Regular producer and vet contact can forestall problems and reduce mortality and production losses. "Concentrate on getting management right rather than acquiring detailed knowledge about the life cycles of different pathogens."

Vets can provide information and help ensure necessary counter measures, such as vaccination, are not abandoned because times are tough. "They have to consider whether they are fulfilling a clients objectives and improving returns at a charge that ensures the health programme is cost-effective."

The aftermath of F&M, the need to protect future markets by controlling scrapie and dealing with wormer resistance are all factors which should bring producers and vets closer together. One knock-on benefit could be a better understanding of pneumonia, the organisms that cause it and the conditions that make it more likely to occur.

The condition may be complex, but Mr Boundy is sure that the economic impact of respiratory disease can be reduced. &#42

The incidence of pneumonia will increase as winter approaches and more livestock are housed, says Terry Boundy.


&#8226 Use disease prevention plan.

&#8226 It is cost effective.

&#8226 Minimise stress.

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