Winter Is Coming: Prepare Now With SureCalf!

Winter may seem a long way away, but to coin a phrase ‘winter IS coming’ so start planning early and see if you can qualify for the SureCalf programme. Now is the time to check that sheds are fit for purpose, possibly looking to modify any in which problems may have occurred last winter and pre-housing treatments or vaccinations need to be administered in time to ensure they will be fully effective by the predicted housing date – this is where SureCalf comes in.

For those selling weaned suckled calves in the autumn, now is also the time to start thinking about preparing those calves for sale. Something known Stateside as ‘pre-conditioning’. In the USA this pre-conditioning refers to all the elements of getting calves ready for sale, including pre-weaning, and ensuring calves know how to drink from a water trough and feed from a feed trough (such calves are certified as ‘tank-broke’ and ‘bunk-broke’). This may sound basic, but for calves coming down off the plains these vital skills will reduce stress when they enter the feedlots, ensuring they suffer less setbacks, and are less at risk of going down with disease. The final vital part of pre-conditioning is vaccination, which includes against one of the biggest risk factors for sold calves, bovine respiratory disease (BRD). One large study1 followed 3.2M beef calves sold through a US livestock videotape auction service over a 10 year period between 1995 and 2005. At the start of the study 55% of sold calves had been vaccinated pre-sale against BRD. By the end of the study in 2005 this had increased to 96.2%, giving some indication of the value and demand for calves vaccinated against BRD prior to sale.

Back to the UK, and whilst the distances travelled, and sheer numbers of calves entering a finishing unit may be much smaller, the principles around ‘pre-conditioning’ still apply. Doing everything possible to separate out the stressors and ensure calves are ready for market. This includes weaning management, and the transition onto solid feed, and finding ways to reduce the risk of bovine respiratory disease as calves are transported and pass through market. This is the basis of the SureCalf® programme, which started as a pilot in Scotland in 2007, and which through its success is now adopted through a number of marts around the country.

Cattle mart

The principles of the SureCalf programme are based around the fact that whilst vaccinating calves against respiratory disease on arrival on a unit can be beneficial, the stresses of recent transportation and change of farm can reduce the animal’s ability to respond to the vaccine as effectively as it would had it received that same vaccine prior to those stressors. Vaccinating before sale therefore helps to maximise the benefit derived from vaccination. And calves at reduced risk of setbacks from respiratory disease are more likely to grow faster, finish earlier, and deliver a better return on investment.

Calves registered under the SureCalf programme are certified as having been vaccinated pre-sale, which provides assurance for the buyers as well as making it easier for buyers to identify SureCalf animals at market. There are 3 schemes within the SureCalf programme based on age, which vaccines are used, and whether or not the calves have already been through a winter housing season.

SureCalf all logos

For spring born calves sold in autumn SureCalf Four or SureCalf Duo are the most appropriate schemes. Under the SureCalf Four scheme calves are vaccinated pre-sale with 2 doses of Rispoval® 4 which provides protection against 3 key respiratory viruses (BRSv, Pi3v and IBR) and BVDv for up to 6 months. Where cover against BVDv is not required, SureCalf Duo offers an alternative option for these spring born calves. Vaccination with Rispoval® IntraNasal and Tracherine® ensures calves are protected against the 3 key respiratory viruses, (BRSv, Pi3v, and IBR) during sale and into the winter housing period.

SureCalf Four timeline

SureCalf Duo timeline

For older cattle sold after a winter housing period the SureCalf Store scheme applies. IBR is the biggest risk for these older animals, so this scheme requires calves to be vaccinated pre-sale with Imuresp® RP, to protect against both IBR and Pi3v, a respiratory virus which increases the risk of both IBR, and also bacterial causes of pneumonia (such as Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica). Calves are protected during sale and for up to 6 months afterwards.

SureCalf Store timeline

So whilst the requirements of these 3 schemes differ slightly , the aim of the SureCalf programme is to help protect the buyer’s investment through minimising the impact of respiratory disease post sale, and to help maximise sale value for the seller who puts in the time and investment to ensure his calves are vaccinated prior to being sold. Data over 5 years2 has shown average premiums on a 300kg SureCalf to range from £36 and £57 showing the value buyers place on buying pre-vaccinated calves.

So whether you are housing your own cattle through winter, or planning to sell your weaned calves this autumn, winter is coming, and the earlier you can start planning for it the better.

For further information about the SureCalf programme please visit or call 0800 668 1886. Otherwise, for the latest news and to stay-in-the-loop follow us on Beef Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear what you think about this post so let us know your thoughts!



1. King ME et al (2006) JAVMA, Vol 229, no.9, Nov 1, p1389

2. Data from calves sold through United Auctions, Scotland in 2008, 2009, 2012-2014

Rispoval® 4 contains attenuated BRSV strain 375 and PI3V ts strain with inactivated, adjuvanted IBR strain Cooper and BVDv Type 1 viruses cytopathic strain 5960 and non-cytopathic strain 6309 minimum. (POM-V) Rispoval® RS+PI3 IntraNasal contains modified live Bovine PI3 virus, ts strain RLB103 and modified live BRSV, strain 375 (POM-V) Tracherine® contains live attenuated IBR virus strain ts RLB 106. (POM-V)Imuresp® RP contains live attenuated PI3 virus, strain ts RLB 103 and live attenuated IBR virus, strain ts RLB 106. (POM-V)

For further information please see the product’s SPC or contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034 Use medicines responsibly ( Date of Preparation: Aug-16