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Advice on Bovine Respiratory Disease from our Head Vet

bovine respiratory disease

Bovine Repsiratory Disease – Written by Mark Riggs BVetMed MRCVS*

*Head vet until December 2014

At this time of year when stock is housed, considerations to pneumonia should be front of mind, especially with calves. Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is multifactorial and can be caused by several different viruses and bacteria and can be significantly influenced by improvements to husbandry.  Along with the more dramatic cases of severe disease and deaths, time should be taken to evaluate the effect of the less dramatic cases that insidiously slow growth rates and cause low grade yet permanent lung damage.

Knowing your enemy is key to successful management of BRD.  The main viruses involved are; respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenze type 3 virus (PI3), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus (IBR) and then any other conditions that affect immunity such as bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVD). The main bacteria involved are: Mannheimia haemolytica (formerly Pasteurella haemolytica), Pasteurella multocida, Mycoplasma species and Histophilus somnus.  Over time the microorganisms that are on your farm can change and so regular testing in conjunction with your vets will reveal invaluable information on how best to prevent or minimise future infections.

Knowing your enemy also involves casting a critical eye over your housing.  Dry, draught and stress free accommodation that is comfortable and well ventilated is key to reducing respiratory disease.  Small changes to air flow and direction, internal barn temperature, stocking densities and stock layout can all positively impact on BRD.  Other management practices are also important in preventing pneumonia. Ensuring calves receive the required volume of high quality colostrum early enough will ensure maximum protection against disease throughout early life. Reducing stress around housing will go a long way towards preventing pneumonia.  Delaying weaning until a couple of weeks after housing, or weaning prior to housing and the avoidance of mixing of groups will minimise stress in the calves. Less stress equals less disease!

Finally, and in conjunction with your herd health plan and veterinary surgeon, numerous vaccines are available to protect against the main causative disease agents.  The old adage still holds very true “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.  Where cure is required for whatever reason, the sooner the treatment starts the better the long term outcomes. It’s all about minimising long term lung damage and so along with consulting your veterinary surgeon to select the most appropriate antibiotic careful consideration to the usage of a suitable anti-inflammatory drug should be given.

Written by Mark Riggs

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Advice on bovine respiratory disease from our Head Vet Mark Riggs.

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