Pneumonia in beef animals not only has an immediate cost in terms of medication, but it can also result in on-going losses and a reduced profit when it comes to slaughter.

The disease can lead to ill-thrift; a reduction in average daily gain (ADG); a reduction in carcass quality; and even death.

As it stands, beef margins are extremely tight. This coupled with an extended finishing period – as a result of pneumonia – severely impacts any profits made at slaughter.

Speaking at the recent Irish Grassland Association (IGA) beef event in Co. Kildare, MSD Animal Health’s Bosco Cowley outlined that the disease effects all cattle at all ages and not just young calves.

“If farmers have an outbreak of pneumonia, they can guarantee that production later in life will be significantly impacted.”

Bosco highlighted a French study Рinvolving 700 bulls Рwhich indicated that, as a result of pneumonia, slaughter dates can be prolonged by between 33 days and 59 days Рdepending on the degree of infection.

Source: Irish Grassland Association and MSD Animal Health

Sub-clinically infected bulls took 33 days longer to finish. Moderately sick bulls were slaughtered 44 days after non-infected animals, while bulls which showed clinical signs of pneumonia took 59 days longer to reach finishing weight.

These sub-clinically infected bulls were animals which did not show any major signs of infection and could easily slip under the radar; this has a major impact on cost.

Commenting on the control of the disease, Bosco outlined that antibiotic use serves as a major problem and that the most important thing from the pneumonia prevention point of view is not just vaccines, but also housing.

If farmers have bad housing, the vaccines will not get a great result.

“There are two sides to the pneumonia equation. There are two different vaccines – an IBR vaccine and a RSV/PI3/Pasteurella vaccine and this is the gold standard in terms of control.

“There are two sides to bovine respiratory disease – the IBR side and the pneumonia agent causing side. Both of these need to be covered,” he concluded.