In this article, CAFRE’s Nigel Gould focuses on animal health, covering weaning, pneumonia, and smoke pellets.
As the focus turns to winter housing of cattle, take time to think about what you can do on your farm to minimise health issues.
Increased levels of stress in cattle, together with the housed environment, allows pathogens to live and multiply more easily.
A good example of this is the increased prevalence of pneumonia in cattle as they are housed.
Good ventilation is key to minimising pneumonia as it allows the replacement of stale, warm air containing pathogens with fresh, cooler air.
As a rule of thumb, calves and adult cattle require 0.04 m2 and 0.1 m2 of outlet respectively per head and at least double this amount as inlet.
Use a smoke pellet to determine if a shed has sufficient ventilation. Use the smoke pellet while cattle are in the shed, as it is the cattle that creates the ‘stack’ effect.
Smoke pellets can be purchased from most hardware and plumbing stores.
Weaned calves are particularly susceptible to pneumonia, especially if housing and weaning occur at the same time.
Where facilities and weather conditions allow, wean calves at grass and let them stay there for three weeks post-weaning.
Alternatively, delay weaning until after the calves have been in the house for a period to give them a chance to adjust to their new environment and silage-based diet.
Another stressor to consider is the grouping of cattle in the house. There will be less stress at housing on animals that were grazed together compared to those mixed with different cattle at housing.
Treatments for lungworm and pneumonia vaccination before housing will reduce the incidence of pneumonia.