Research carried out by Dechra veterinary products and Meadow Quality claims to have found an alternative to prophylactic antibiotic usage in young calves.
About one million calves from the dairy herd are reared in the UK each year, and many are reared on specialist rearing units. The highest rate of antibiotic usage in cattle is between the ages of four weeks and five months, as this the period with the highest risk of pneumonia and other common calf disorders.
The British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) recommends decreasing the levels of antibiotic usage in cattle to avoid the growing threat of antibiotic resistance in humans. This must, however, be achieved without compromising animal welfare.
Research was carried out on three calf rearing units over a six-month period, using 258 calves from a variety of dairy farms.
Calves were given a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) product, with the active ingredient sodium salicylate, in their feed for five days on arrival at the rearing units.
The product, Solacyl, has similar fever-controlling, pain-managing and inflammation-reducing benefits in livestock as aspirin can have in humans.
The study concluded that antibiotic usage was an average of 43 per cent lower on calves treated with sodium salicylate than the calves given preventative antibiotics.
Vet Owen Atkinson was involved in analysing the data. He says: “The data showed there was no significant difference in growth rates, mortality or in days to reach a target weight in the calves that received the product, compared to previous batches of calves that had followed a prophylactic antibiotic control.”
The product can be given in water, milk, milk replacer or wet feed. It remains stable in hard water, acidified water and wet feed for at least 24 hours. It also has a low gastric lesion index, meaning it is easy on the stomach.
The product has zero withdrawal period and is available from vets on prescription.
It is estimated that the use of this NSAID for calves could cut antibiotic usage by 4.4 tonnes nationwide per year.
The cattle antibiotics group has launched a new cross-industry initiative to improve calf health, with the aim of encouraging more farmers to engage in proactive health planning.
The campaign, which will be running until October 26, covers all parts of the beef and dairy calf production systems and will focus on three key areas: identification and appropriate treatment, review planning and disease prevention.
Tim Potter, member of the antibiotics group and veterinary surgeon and consultant, says: "Taking simple proactive steps to maximise health can ensure calf welfare and performance, while helping to reduce the need for antibiotic use on farm.”
Take a look at #CalfHealth on social media to find out more.