Get the most from costly feed by maximising cattle health this winter

If ever there was a year when investing in your stock to get the maximum return is going to be important, then 2018/19 is the one. With feed costs up by about 30% on the year, and some farmers already buffer feeding winter forage, winter feed is likely to be in short supply. This means farmers must make sure their animals are converting feed into meat, milk and growth as efficiently as possible.

There are things you can do to maximise production efficiency. Whilst genetics and nutrition are key in determining growth rates, health also plays an important part in ensuring youngstock achieve weight for age targets and older stock are finished as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One of the most common health problems affecting calves up to 12 months of age and which can have a lifetime impact is pneumonia or Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).

Poor respiratory health can impact both growth rates and feed conversion efficiency, resulting in losses through, for example, increased feed costs, increased finishing times, reduced sale weights, or increased age at first calving in breeding animals.

Therefore, protecting the health of youngstock is vital to protecting the future performance of the herd, whether beef or dairy.

Managing triggers at housing

As we look to winter and housing stock, we need to think about how best we can manage the triggers which make cattle more susceptible to BRD. Some important triggers for respiratory disease include:

  1. Inadequate ventilation – stagnant air increases the pathogen load and therefore the disease challenge. Air flow should ideally be <2m sec (we want fresh air but not draughts) and should be uniform across the building. Drainage slopes, set at a 5° angle help keep the bedding dry.
  2. Overstocking – increases the disease challenge and the moisture levels in the environment.
  3. Stress – try to keep stress to a minimum by performing tasks such as weaning, worming and vaccination prior to housing. Avoid mixing calves from different age groups and make sure there’s adequate feed space to reduce competition.
  4. Nutrition - introduce diet changes gradually and ideally before housing.
  5. Parasite control – to control gut and lung worms. Ideally administer treatments prior to or at housing to reduce stress at housing, and to help maximise performance in the late autumn.


Vaccination plays an important role in protecting respiratory health, it shouldn’t however be viewed as the silver bullet to solving all of your calf health problems. Vaccination must be combined with good farm management practices like those listed above. Getting all of this right will help optimise youngstock performance and lifetime productivity.

When selecting the right vaccine, you need to consider the age of your stock, what pathogens you need to protect against and length of cover required. There are effective vaccines against some but not all the pathogens which cause respiratory disease.

In general, intranasal vaccines stimulate a fast-immune response and can be used in young calves. For example, Rispoval® IntraNasal, can be used from just 9 days of age, protects calves within 5 days* and provides 12 weeks of protection against BRSv and Pi3v, two key viral causes of pneumonia in young calves.

Intra-muscular vaccines, like Rispoval® 3 or 4, may require 2 doses to start the course, and take longer to stimulate an immune response. However, they provide broader (Rispoval 4 protects against all 4 key viruses BRSV, PI3v, IBR and BVD) and longer lasting (6 months) immunity.

Zoetis has the most comprehensive range of BRD vaccines for a flexible approach to safeguarding youngstock respiratory health, helping your calves achieve efficient growth this winter. More information on vaccine programmes can be viewed at

*against BRSv

Rispoval® RS+PI3 IntraNasal contains modified live Bovine PI3 virus, ts strain RLB103 and modified live BRSV, strain 375 (POM-V) Rispoval™ 3 contains modified live PI3 virus, strain RLB103 and BRSV strain 375 with inactivated adjuvanted BVDV type 1, strains 5960 (cytopathic) and 6309 (non-cytopathic) (POM-V)

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)

Further information is available from the Summary of Product Characteristics or please contact your veterinary surgeon or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly ( Date of Preparation: Aug18 MM-03774