Tackling the economics of young calf respiratory disease

Farm Forum

Calving season is approaching in fall calving areas and getting those calves off to a healthy start is top of mind for cattle producers. Preventing respiratory disease is not only best for overall animal health and productivity, but recent studies demonstrate there can be an economic benefit for the cow/calf operation.

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) recently published a study based on a survey of cow/calf producers in multiple states. The study evaluated and compared the costs of vaccines and vaccine administration to calves for disease protection with the medication and labor costs of treating a calf with respiratory disease.

The JAVMA study showed, in many cases, the costs associated with prevention — vaccine costs plus the labor cost to administer vaccines — were considerably less than the medication and labor costs to treat disease. Median vaccine cost per calf in the surveyed herds was $6.25, while labor costs were $5 for administering vaccine to calves. Medicine cost to treat a sick calf averaged $11, while treatment labor costs were $15 per calf. This study reveals that the cost per calf to treat respiratory disease is more than twice the cost of preventing respiratory disease.

A proven approach to the young calf’s immune system

A young calf’s immune system is unique in how it responds to viral and bacterial challenges. Calfhood vaccinations can complement what the dam provides through colostrum and help give a calf every chance to be healthy and perform to its potential. Timing and type of vaccine administration play key roles in managing the young calf’s immune response.

A Montana study looked at the impact of timing and sequence of vaccination on the immune response in nursing calves. The study demonstrated that the intranasal vaccine works with the calf’s immune system to prevent respiratory disease caused by bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and helps prevent respiratory disease caused by infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and parainfluenza 3 (PI3) virus.

“The Montana study and research out of North Dakota demonstrated that vaccination at birth can improve future responses to vaccination, while helping provide protection against respiratory diseases from birth to weaning,” said Victor Cortese, DVM, PhD, director of immunology and biologicals with Zoetis.

The Montana study helps support the Zoetis recommendation to use INFORCE 3 at birth followed by a second dose of INFORCE 3 and One Shot BVD to protect against BRSV, IBR, PI3, bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) Types 1 and 2 and Mannheimia haemolytica, before heading to pasture.

Cortese concluded with three things a cow/calf producer will see from implementing young calf respiratory vaccinations:

• Lower pneumonia rates

• Lower death loss

• Greater weight gains.

To develop a vaccination protocol for your young nursing calves, visit with your local veterinarian, or visit CompleteCalfProtection.com to learn more about solutions from Zoetis.