Summertime is nearly over, and autumn is fast approaching. Livestock have enjoyed a particularly good summer weatherwise but soon forage will run short and they will have to be housed for the the wetter months. As every farmer knows, housing is essential in our climate. It protects animals from the worst of the winter weather, and makes feeding them easier as grass recedes during the dark months of the year. But, housing brings challenges too. A group of animals kept in close proximity is ideal for the spread of disease, particularly pneumonia.
“Pneumonia” simply means inflammation of the lungs. It can be caused by various bugs – viruses, fungi and bacteria. These bugs are spread more easily when animals are in close contact in poorly ventilated sheds. They can also take hold of an animal when it becomes stressed, e.g. by housing it after months in a field. In America this disease is known as “shipping fever” – because pneumonia takes hold when an animal is “shipped” from one field or feed-lot to another. Pneumonia is a real risk to young animals, it can make them sick and often kill them. So what is to be done?
Prevention is better than cure. Research has shown time and again that it is cost-effective to vaccinate your herd prior to housing them. We have good, effective vaccines for pneumonia in calves now. A couple of shots before housing can reduce both sickness and death in your herd. It is time and money well spent. Studies from our own labs in Belfast have indicated that by the time you see symptoms of pneumonia in your animals, ¾ of their lung tissue could already be dead. Interestingly, their lungs have no bugs in them, because farmers have treated with antibiotics – but it makes no difference, the animal still can’t breathe because the damage has been done.
Ventilation is also very important. You might think that your shed is well ventilated – but I issue you a challenge. Get right down to the level a small calf is at in your shed and try to breath. Particularly if you also store fodder in the shed. Cows and humans have similar physiology – if you can’t breath easily, neither can your stock. Ensure that your sheds are warmed and have a good airflow through them. Good airflow can dry the air and remove harmful bugs. This need not cost a lot of cash, sometimes it’s as simple as removing a board from the wall in the direction of the prevailing wind.
Please come and talk to us at Downe Vets about vaccination and housing. We are happy to help; and together, we can save lives.