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Get Fresh Air In And Calf Pneumonia Out

Fresh air is one of the best antivirus agents there is, according to Jamie Robertson, from Aberdeen University, speaking at a recent DairyCo ventilation event.

Cases of calf pneumonia can have a huge cost to the dairy herd, with data showing that the average loss for a treated calf is 75. But Im convinced there is much we can do to prevent it, says Mr Robertson. Its not about large capital investment, although there will be a cost associated with your time, but practical things you can do to your sheds that will make a real difference.

When it comes to good building ventilation and reducing calf pneumonia there are three key things to bear in mind; moisture, fresh air and air speed. If you get these right not only will you provide a healthy environment for your cattle, theyll also have a positive effect on mastitis and production.

You want to reduce the amount of moisture in cattle accommodation as bugs thrive on moisture. Think about putting sand under calf bedding to lock moisture into the bedding. Make sure farm yards drain rain water away from calf housing, put in a simple drain if you need to. Maintaining all gutters and downpipes is a sound investment.”

Respiratory disease is spread by air particles. In five minutes 97 per cent of respiratory virus particles are dead in normal fresh air conditions, but in a muggy environment they can last ten times as long.”

Getting the balance between enough openings in a shed to draw in fresh and push out stale air and excluding harsh weather means you need to consider options such as covered openings in roofs and space or Yorkshire boarding, or side curtains.

Air speed is also important as drafts cause stress to animals. Drafts will really hammer the calfs immune systems, explains Mr Robertson. Its not such a problem for loose housed calves as they will get out of the draft but if they are penned and cant get away from the weather you will notice that they really suffer.

DairyCo is a division of the statutory levy board, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

DairyCos current focus is on improving the profitability of dairy farming by focusing on four specific areas:

  • Provision of high quality market information to help farmers and their representatives make the most of dairy markets and opportunities.
  • Helping dairy farmers increase their profits while meeting regulatory and environmental requirements through the provision of world class research programmes and practical on-farm tools and services
  • Helping promote the positive perception of dairy farming with the general public.
  • The development of DairyCo activities towards a self-sustaining model.

DairyCo is funded entirely by milk producers, via a statutory levy on all milk sold off-farm, at the rate of 0.06p per litre. This provides an annual income of around 6.5m.

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