A vaccine is now available that can help producers to prevent Mycoplasma Bovis – the number-one cause of pneumonia in calves.
This infection is difficult to identify and treat in the early stages and, until now, the only preventative option was creating an expensive – and narrowly targeted – autogenous vaccine. But now producers now have a more cost-effective choice, in the form of an import vaccine.
Developed in the US, trials have shown that vaccinating cattle reduced mortality by almost 40% - down to 5.8% in the vaccinated group compared to 9.6% in the control. It also reduced lung lesion scores by between 56% and 64%, and tripled the antibody response.
M Bovis causes other health problems, as well as pneumonia. “Much like BVD, it has a plethora of other symptoms, including mastitis and immunosuppression, leading to increased antibiotic use and hampering herd performance,” says Aberdeenshire-based vet Graeme Fowlie, from Meadows Vets.
Mr Fowlie has set up the UK’s first on-farm trials to ascertain the effectiveness of the vaccine, Myco-B, which has now been granted a temporary import license, via Kernfarm, for use in the UK, under veterinary prescription.
Vets must apply for a ‘Special Treatment Certificate’ before ordering Myco-B and can prescribe it under the Cascade system.
The trials involve four dairy herd, varying between 170 and 400 cows, which have tested positive for M Bovis. Cows and in-calf heifers are being vaccinated at drying off, or at least four weeks pre-calving. Calves born into the trial will receive a booster at 60 days, in line with the standard vaccine licence.
Calf performance will be recorded before and after its use to assess vaccine efficacy, with assessments made on changes in liveweight gain, mortality, antibiotic usage, and producer observations.
“I believe that M Bovis is too complicated a disease for a young calf’s immune system to control by vaccinating at between seven and 10 days old,” says Mr Fowlie.
“Some calves are also born with the disease, which is why I’m looking at vaccinating the cows so they can pass on the immunity through their colostrum. I expect to see an impact from weaning onwards, when calves are most susceptible to the disease.”