Controlling pneumonia in heifer calves - Veterinary Practice
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Controlling pneumonia in heifer calves

PNEUMONIA in dairy heifer calves
during the first three months of life
has been found to reduce first
lactation milk yield by 2.2% and
increase age at first calving by two
weeks. The yield loss has been
calculated at £39 per head on a 7,000
litre first lactation at 25p/litre. At
£1.65 per day, two weeks of
additional rearing time costs £23.
The cost of an average pneumonia
case has been calculated to be £43
per calf. Together, these amount to
£105 per case.

According to Pfizer veterinary
surgeon Matt Williams, speaking at
the Dairy Event and Livestock Show,
the main elements of heifer rearing
programmes that promote strong
immune systems and minimal
pneumonia incidence are:

  • every new-born calf receives three
    litres of good quality colostrum,
    ideally from its own mother, within
    the first six hours from birth;
  • calves live in a low moisture, clean
    air, no-draught environment, made
    possible by efficient drainage
    throughout the inside of the building
    and around the immediate external
    area, good ventilation, and plentiful
    fresh dry bedding;
  • minimal stress arising from
    weaning, disbudding, over-stocking,
    transport, mixing into new groups,
    etc., and avoid imposing several
    stress factors at the same time;
  • sound nutrition and fresh clean
    water available 100% of the time;
    o vaccination against the three main
    viral instigators of respiratory disease
    -RSV, Pi3 and IBR – and the BVD
    virus, which causes immunity
    suppression and to which 95% of
    UK dairy herds have been exposed;
  • good stockmanship, with constant
    awareness and active observation for
    the early signs of respiratory
    infection – not just coughing, but
    increased breathing rate and less
    aggressive feeding than usual.

“At this time when dairy
replacements are in short supply, a
herd’s next generation is a particularly
valuable asset that warrants tender
loving care and attention to detail
from the moment each calf is born,”
Mr Williams said.

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