As producers continue to focus on profitable calf rearing, vaccination against pneumonia continues to rise.
This was one of the findings from this year’s Calfmatters survey, undertaken by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, carried out to gain a snap shot into calf health and management practices on-farm.
The survey, now in its third year, collected responses from more than 400 farmers in the UK.
Matt Yarnall, vet adviser at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, says 47 per cent of respondents reported using calf vaccination, which is a rise from the 2018 figure of 35 per cent.
He says: “It is encouraging to see this increase and shows farmers are seeing the benefits of calf vaccination and vaccination in general.”
When questioned about what differences farmers had seen between vaccinated and unvaccinated calves, the top three answers were: reduced incidence of calf pneumonia; reduction in use of antibiotics; and improved calf health and wellbeing.
Mr Yarnall says he hopes to see these vaccination figures carry on rising as the industry continues in its drive to reduce the use of antibiotics through preventative measures, such as vaccination.
On the subject of antibiotics, almost 50 per cent of respondents said their antibiotic use had decreased in 2019, compared to 40 per cent reporting a decrease the previous year.
However, it was also felt that 2019 was a ‘healthier’ year than 2018, with 87 per cent saying they had a less than 10 per cent incidence of calf pneumonia, compared to 83 per cent in 2018.
Mr Yarnall also says it is encouraging to see there is a slight increase in farmers recording their antibiotic use for cases of calf pneumonia in specific apps and in the herd health plan.
He says: “Most are still using the traditional medicine book, but by using an app to record antibiotic use, it is possible to access information and draw off reports, which can be analysed.”
While more than 75 per cent of respondents were ensuring calves were given colostrum, Mr Yarnall says there is still only a minority who are measuring colostrum quality.
He says: “It is good that producers are aware about giving a good quantity of colostrum, but you need to be measuring to make sure it is the right quality too.”
He says there are a number of tools available to measure quality, including a brix refractometer and colostrometer, but often testing does not fit into the calf feeding routine.
He says: “It needs to become part of the standard operating procedure.”