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Planning in preparation for weaning- how to prevent pneumonia?

Planning in preparation for weaning- how to prevent pneumonia?

With spring calving herds weaning calves in September-October, now is the time to plan your vaccination programme. Catherine Egan, Teagasc Beef Specialist, highlights that the number one cause of mortality in weanlings in 2020 was pneumonia and she has advice to prevent it on your farm here

The veterinary laboratories operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) provide data on the patterns and frequency of occurrence of non-regulated diseases in farmed animal populations in Ireland. The quarterly surveillance report produced by the regional veterinary laboratories (RVL) gave an overview of animal disease trends in October, November and December 2020. This report highlighted that the number one cause of mortality in cattle of all ages was pneumonia. Figure 1 below highlights the causes of mortality in weanlings which was respiratory diseases.


Source: DAFM RVL Quarterly Report 2020

Figure 1. The causes of bovine mortality in weanlings(bovine animals aged greater than three months but less than twelve months0 recorded on post-mortem examination by RVLs, categorised by system or cause ,during Quarter 4 of 2020 (n=200) 

Watch this video as Charles Chavasse Area Veterinary Manager with Zoetis, discusses Vaccination

Health strategy

In order to prevent mortality and such health issues in weanlings it’s important to be proactive and have a health programme which is carefully planned in advance of weaning with your local vet.Vaccination is a key component of this strategy.  Veterinary advice should be sought for a suitable BRD vaccination programme and the widest protection will be achieved where the programme covers the three most common respiratory viruses – respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Parainfluenza-3 (PI-3) virus, bovine herpes virus type 1 (BoHV-1) virus (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis IBR) and the bacterial pathogen mannheimia (pasteurella) haemolytica.

Why vaccinate?

Vaccines are an aid to the control of pneumonia as the vaccines reduce lung damage caused by viruses allowing antibiotics to work more effectively on bacteria. This reduces the need for antibiotics on farm.

Vaccinations help reduce the probability of disease but cannot be depended upon solely for prevention. The management system pre-weaning and post-weaning will assist the successful outcomes of a BRD vaccination programme. Efficacy of the vaccine is determined by many factors including the level of challenge presented to the animal, the proper functioning of the animal’s immune system and the timing of vaccination relative to infection.

As part of the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme- Sucklers (BEEP-S) farmers may have selected the optional measure under Action 2 to vaccinate weanlings which they get €30 per calf weighed up to a max of 100 calves.

Watch this video where Martina Harrington Teagasc talks about vaccination and BEEP-S

How to administer vaccines?

Vaccines need careful handling. It is essential to vaccinate fully BEFORE the risk period. All animals in the herd at risk should be vaccinated. Cover the likely viruses and use the vaccines properly

  1. Store in a functioning fridge
    • Live vaccines: Once mixed, use within 4 hours*
    • Dead vaccines: Once broached use within 10 hours* (*Check times for each vaccine)
  2. Live vaccines need to be mixed – Sterile needles and syringes – Do NOT return to fridge
  3. Use good facilities and take your time
  4. Work from the back of the crush
  5. Always use the correct gun/applicator

In a two part series podcast on planning in preparation for weaning, vet Charles Chavasse Area Veterinary Manager with Zoetis discusses how to prevent pneumonia.

Charles describes how most pneumonia is caused by a mix of viruses and bacteria. Listen to the podcast here

For more episodes and information covered on the Beef Edge, visit the show page at www.teagasc.ie/thebeefedge

The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to suckler & cattle farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily