Beef Rearers: Top tips to overcoming disease challenges

Buying in animals from multiple sources can pose a disease risk. For calves originating from herds in a recognised health scheme some important information will be known, but not necessarily the whole picture and therefore all the diseases they may be carrying.

Moving is stressful for animals, and stress can make them more susceptible to diseases, such as pneumonia. Not only can transportation itself be stressful, but so too can the mixing of calves from different origins, changes in diet and housing.

However, with a lack of integration in the dairy supply chain, buying in calves from multiple sources is often necessary in order for calf rearers to fulfil their requirements.  

So, what can be done to minimise risk when sourcing calves from multiple farms?

Buy from farms in a recognised health scheme

If a vendor is in a recognised health scheme, this can give some information and assurance around certain diseases, such as BVD, IBR and Johne’s.

Ask the vendor about the animal’s history

Aspects such as colostrum management and vaccination history can influence how well equipped an animal may be to fight off disease. 


Colostrum is vital in ensuring the best possible start in life, but for rearers buying in young calves, this is one area they don’t directly manage. Where possible, asking the seller about their colostrum management will provide important information. Ideally, all calves should receive 3 litres (or 10% of body weight) of colostrum within 2-3 hours of birth, with another similar sized feed within 12 hours1.

Pneumonia vaccination

Bovine respiratory disease (or pneumonia) is one of the biggest known causes of mortality in calves aged 1- 6 months 2, which is why all calves should ideally be vaccinated against it.

Every farmer should put measures in place to protect the respiratory health of their calves from as young an age as possible in order to give them the best possible start and to help them reach their full potential.

Vaccination, in combination with management factors, plays an important part in protecting the respiratory health of youngstock.

The single-shot RISPOVAL® INTRANASAL vaccine can be used from as young as nine days of age, and persists for 12 weeks, ensuring calves are covered against BRSv and Pi3v (2 key viral causes of respiratory disease) as early as possible through a critical period in their life.

Quarantine bought in animals

On many rearing units, calves are purchased and put into groups of similar size and age, and then managed as a group going forwards. 

When introducing purchased stock onto a farm with existing stock, and where they will be sharing pen or air space, where possible they should initially be managed separately (quarantined). The length of quarantine should be determined with your vet. Stressed calves will generally shed more pathogens, so pose a higher risk to existing stock. Allowing time for them to settle in, where they can be   observed for signs of disease, tested, vaccinated and where required treated reduces the risk of further spread of infection. 

Put together a health plan for your farm

Having a health plan for your farm is a requirement for most farm assurance schemes. However, using it proactively can help ensure the health of animals is maintained and productivity of the herd is optimised. 

1. AHDB Dairy (2015)
2. Brickell et al 2009 Animal 3:8 1175-1182

Rispoval® RS+PI3 IntraNasal contains modified live PI3 virus, strain ts RLB103 and modified live BRSV, strain 375. For the active immunisation of MDA positive or negative calves from 9 days of age against BRSV and PI3 virus, to reduce the mean titre and duration of excretion of both viruses (POM-V.)

Further information can be obtained from your vet or the product SPC or from Zoetis UK Ltd, First floor, Birchwood Building, Springfield Drive, Leatherhead KT22 7LP • Customer support 0845 300 8034 • • Use medicines responsibly ( • Produced June 2019 • MM-05599