Helping you and your stock breathe easy

Date published: 08 September 2016

As we approach weaning period for spring born suckled calves, farmers need to be aware that prevention is much more cost-effective than treating a disease outbreak.

Good management of calves in autumn is essential to maintain health and performance and minimise risk of respiratory disease

Worm doses and pneumonia vaccinations should now be given to spring-born calves in the run-up to weaning this autumn. This should be part of a closely followed, comprehensive health plan, drawn up in consultation with the farm vet.

Worm control

Where calves have not been dosed yet, and particularly if they have started coughing, it is important to take action now. The approach often used is to get in early to prevent build-up of a worm burden in calves. Different products offer variations in the length of cover and some achieve a faster and more complete kill of worms than others. Where there is a heavy worm burden, it might be best to use a levamisole product (which tends to be less effective against larvae in the early stages, but less severe on calves), and dose again in a few weeks.

Pneumonia prevention

Where there is no recent history of pneumonia it may be possible for farmers to rely on good management around weaning to control the risk of calves developing pneumonia.

Good management practice includes:

  • ensuring that calves are treated effectively for stomach and lung worms
  • weaning gradually by
    • breaking the cow to calf bond by allowing calves to creep graze ahead of cows
    • removing small numbers of cows from the group each week
  • housing animals in well-ventilated facilities.

Many farms routinely vaccinate calves against pneumonia to greatly decrease the risk of pneumonia.

However, the best advice remains to vaccinate calves, while also implementing good practice at weaning. Vaccination in itself is not a substitute for poor management.

There is a range of respiratory disease vaccines available. Farmers should consult their vet to ensure the best products are used to meet the challenges on their own farm.

Farmers are advised to:

  • have a comprehensive animal health plan, drawn up with their farm vet
  • make sure younger calves are treated to minimise stomach and lung worm burdens
  • vaccinate calves for pneumonia to reduce disease risk during autumn weaning and housing
  • use approved veterinary products recommended by their farm vet
  • discuss any action you plan with your vet. 

By John Moore, Senior Beef Development Adviser, CAFRE

Notes to editors: 

  1. Follow us on Twitter @daera_ni.
  2. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office, or tel: 028 9052 4619.

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