How to improve the productivity of beef suckler calves

All beef farmers want to optimise the value of their herds in a healthy, sustainable way. Did you know that one way of doing this is through putting plans in place to protect the respiratory health of your calves? 

The importance of growth

If you want to optimise growth and therefore the financial potential from each calf you need to keep the calf healthy! This means providing an environment that reduces disease risk, meeting the nutritional requirements of the calf (and carefully managing any diet changes), and implementing appropriate prevention strategies to optimise health. Whilst this may sound straightforward, we all know that on a farm, things are not always that simple! Complex and often conflicting factors weigh in on the potential value you can withdraw from each animal, and one very common issue that beef farmers face is that of poor calf respiratory health. 

Healthier lungs, healthier profits

The link between respiratory health and calf growth has been well established; calves with healthy lungs gain more weight per day than those with lung damage. Young calves are particularly susceptible to respiratory disease, with estimates suggesting that 67% of cases of pneumonia occur in calves under three months of age1, so particularly for autumn/winter calving herds, when calves will be housed during their most vulnerable period, the key to maximising productivity is to protect them from respiratory illness as early as possible. 

Simple ways to protect and improve respiratory health

Early vaccination against key viruses which affect the respiratory health of young calves - BRSv and Pi3v - is an important preventative measure. You can also reduce the transmission of viruses by improving building ventilation, reducing stocking density, and minimising as much as possible mixing of age groups, where older calves represent a risk to the younger more vulnerable animals.


1. ZOETIS market research (2006)

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