Beware Pneumonia - SRUC Warns Farmers to Think Now About Respiratory Disease in Young Cattle

Published Wednesday, 13th November 2013 in SAC Consulting news

Oatridge Campus - Cattle Shed

Vets from Scotland’s Rural College are reminding farmers to beware of pneumonia in young stock.

Respiratory disease in cattle affects animal welfare and leads to significant financial loss through reduced productivity, costly treatment and possible deaths. Experience shows the greatest risk is in the months of December and January, directly after cattle are housed. Farmers should have a control strategy in place now.

The disease tends to strike animals under one year of age. According to SRUC experts by the time one or two animals are showing obvious signs of respiratory infection many others in the group will be going through the less eye catching, early phase of the disease.

“Bovine Respiratory Disease or BRD is caused by many different things”, says Inverness-based Veterinary Investigation Officer with SRUC, Franz Brulisauer. “Factors such as poor ventilation, stress, viruses or lungworms can lead to damage to the respiratory tract and act as ‘door openers’ for follow-up infections by bacteria, which normally don’t harm the animal but take the opportunity to run riot. We would urge farmers to talk to their vets about control plans”.

Antibiotics can treat the condition but, with increasing fears over antibiotic resistance, this should be regarded as a last resort. Franz recommends strategies aimed at prevention rather then cure.

“Stress can play a big factor so jobs like dehorning should be done before the animals come in. Once the cattle are inside try to keep them in the same groups and avoid remixing or overstocking. Remember the change of diet can sometimes upset them and make them vulnerable to secondary infection. Of course the buildings should have good ventilation and be as free of dust as possible.”

Often viral infections are involved in the early stages of disease and while stock can build up immunity there are vaccines which can do a good job. Scotland’s Rural College and Moredun Research Institute have together developed improved tests for investigating pneumonia outbreaks which can help farmers and their vets make decisions about treatments.

“Our SAC Consulting Disease Surveillance Centres carry out post mortems on casualty animals which can help identify the exact problem, “ says Franz. “However it is far better if farmers think ahead, take action and cut casualties to a minimum.”

SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, a division of Scotland’s Rural College, receives financial support from the Scottish Government through its Veterinary and Advisory Services (VAS) programme.

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