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Dairy productivity hit when BRD strikes

Production losses resulting from bovine respiratory disorder (BRD), could lose dairy farmers up to £75 per heifer in addition to treatment costs, says Sascha van Helvoort,  veterinary technical support adviser at Norbrook Laboratories.

Dairy farmers have been facing tough economic times with low milk-prices and two consecutive cold winters. This means they can ill-afford losses resulting from BRD, a disease that costs the industry more than £80 million/year.

“Heifers that have suffered from BRD often have their first oestrus up to two weeks later than their contemporaries, resulting in additional rearing costs before they become productive,” she told milk producers in the east Midlands. “Additionally, their first lactation often produces a reduced milk yield.”

Extra time for the affected calves to mature can increase feed and other variable costs by £25-£30. Additionally, DairyCo statistics show an average lactation at around 7,000 litres, so with a farm-gate price of, say, 28 pence per litre, a fall in yield of about two per cent would incur a further loss of about £45 per heifer.

With extra costs of around £75 per heifer on top of treatment costs, BRD can have a serious impact on profits from milk production, said Ms van Helvoort, who emphasised that the best way of minimising losses was to try and prevent an outbreak of BRD in the first place.

“Stress lowers calves’ resistance to disease, so it is advisable to try and reduce the amount they undergo,” she advised.

The most stressful time in a calf’s life is just after weaning, when many are sold and introduced into mixed groups from different herds. This can result in increasing the likelihood of a BRD strike. 

“Additionally, environment and herd management practices are critical to preventing BRD,” says Ms van Helvoort. “Any dairy farmer whose herd suffers from frequent attacks would be well advised to review housing and husbandry practices. Reducing overcrowding will often lower the incidence of respiratory problems.”

When an outbreak occurs, Ms van Helvoort recommended using a single dose of a highly effective, targeted, rapid-action antibiotic such as enrofloxacin.

“Once an accurate diagnosis has been made, a rapid-action antibiotic that reaches concentration levels in the lungs two to three times higher than in the blood can help stop BRD in its tracks,” she continued.

“This means that not only is there less time for damage to the lungs to occur, the likelihood of contagion is greatly reduced as it kills all the microbes extremely quickly.”

Ms van Helvoort urged dairy producers with outbreaks of BRD to ask their vets whether enrofloxacin is a suitable solution to their particular problem.

“It makes good business sense because the affected animal recovers more quickly and as long as it is treated promptly, fewer drugs are used.

Posted on Sep 16, 2010 - 03:20 PM

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