Waiting for an outbreak to occur and treating with antibiotics is very common practice, yet is it really the best way of effectively controlling and preventing the disease?

Using antibiotics could be a more expensive option than vaccination, and may have other implications, with chronic lung damage causing great loss in performance. Fighting an outbreak of pneumonia with antibiotics or group antibiotic therapy is unpopular with the end consumer and a number of milk and beef buyers. Furthermore, when you add up all the costs, antibiotic therapy often works out more expensive than vaccination. This is a high risk strategy as permanent damage is often done before treatment can take place.

A typical course of a pneumonia vaccine will cost you in the region of £9 per head. Antibiotic treatments can cost as much as £13-£15. To this you can add the cost of keeping a sick calf on milk for approximately 14 days (£8.40), any extra labour and the cost of calling the vet out, with suckling calves losing growth and production. Very soon, an outbreak can become more expensive than that of vaccinating.

Vaccination clearly has the potential to be a much more cost effective method of managing pneumonia. It also gives peace of mind since the vaccine provides ongoing immunity.

There are a number of different vaccines available, all of which differ slightly in the types of pneumonia they can control. The disease is caused by a number of "bugs" - some viral, some bacterial. Ventilation and stress are also important considerations. In young calves, pasteurella and RSV are the main threats, while IBR tends to be more of a problem in older animals. Pasteurella is a bacteria, while RSV and IBR are both viruses.

Choosing a vaccine that combines both viral and bacterial activity is vital for effective disease control. Intervet's Bovipast® RSP is the only vaccine available that contains both viral and bacterial components. It is also ideal for use in calves, since it can be used from two weeks of age.