Small changes have a big impact on youngstock health

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

By making small alterations to calf housing, farmer Marc Evans has seen reduced pneumonia cases and improved health across his youngstock.

Marc Evans manages a 170-autumn block calving herd in Upper Maen, Meifod. Two years ago, calf pneumonia was a significant problem on the farm, with 30 cases per year and a mortality rate of 2-3% during winter 2018/19.

Visit our dedicated calf pneumonia webpage for a range of resources.

The farm is one of 500 farms selected by AHDB to take part in its HerdAdvance project, which aims to help Welsh dairy farmers lift profitability and performance by focusing on improved herd health management and disease control.

In July 2019, the project arranged for David Ball, Senior Manager for Environment & Buildings, to visit the farm and make some recommendations on building changes.

Following a thorough evaluation of the calf sheds, David suggested structural changes which could be made to help improve airflow and provide better ventilation. This in turn would reduce the humidity and the challenge from disease pathogens, especially ones that cause pneumonia.

Following David’s advice, Marc knocked down two walls and removed two layers of concrete blocks to increase airflow through the shed. David advised the side was already well-sheltered as the bank behind would provide protection in the worst weather conditions.

Marc said: “The visit from David Ball highlighted the key changes needed. David provided some great knowledge and his advice has been fantastic. It shows you don’t have to spend a lot of money, what’s important is getting the right advice on farm.”

As a result of these alterations, the number of pneumonia cases in the youngstock has decreased. Mortality rate has also dropped with calf health improving. The farm now also has an intranasal pneumonia vaccination in place to provide further protection to the calves.

Jack Thomas, the Animal Health Knowledge Exchange Manager for the farm, says: “The smallest changes on farm can make the biggest difference. Working with Marc has shown you don’t always have to spend money to have a positive effect on youngstock health, just be willing to make changes where necessary.”

To find more information about the HerdAdvance project, visit our dedicated webpage.

HerdAdvance is part of the five-year Dairy Improvement Programme, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union.