VETS from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have reminded 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 December and January, directly after cattle are housed and SRUC said farmers should have a control strategy in place.
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 eyecatching, early phase of the disease.
Franz Brulisauer, SRUC veterinary investigation officer, said: “Bovine respiratory disease or BRD is caused by many different things.
“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 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.
Mr Brulisauer recommended strategies aimed at prevention rather than cure.
He said: “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,” said Mr Brulisauer. “However, it is far better if farmers think ahead, take action and cut casualties to a minimum.