The future of your herd

Photo by Simon Bingham

In mid-March, Wodonga was host to the Australian Cattle Veterinarians Annual Conference.

This two-day annual event attracts more than 150 cattle veterinarians from across Australia.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘The Next Level’, signifying the state-of-the-art material being presented.

Australia is fortunate to have well renowned cattle veterinarians who are pleased to share their knowledge.

A presentation by keynote speaker, Dr Sam Barringer from the United States, covered respiratory disease in calves and its diagnosis.

Like many of the conference presentations, Dr Barringer built upon the basics that respiratory disease in calves is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria that work together in causing disease in calves.

Affected calves are likely to have predisposing factors such as inadequate colostrum intake and poor health, and environmental factors such as poor hygiene, overcrowding, poor air quality, and a lack of shelter.

Even if the calf recovers, an affected calf will generally have poor weight gain, an increased age at which it reaches maturity, an increased age at first calving, decreased milk production, and an increased chance of early culling.

The state-of-the-art technology presented was the use of ultrasound in diagnosing the calves which have respiratory disease.

Generally, calves that show the clinical signs of respiratory disease are severely affected and if not treated early will always suffer a set back from their early illness.

Interestingly, through ultrasound, a proportion of calves that appear clinically normal will also be found to have respiratory disease.

It would be reasonable to ask, why don’t those calves appear to be sick? The likely reason goes right back to the fact that cattle were animals of prey.

If they appeared sick, they were more likely to be hunted, therefore for survival they had an evolutionary advantage in appearing healthy for as long as possible.

With the advances of technology that producers now have access to, they are in a stronger position to make better herd-health decisions.

Dr Jeff Cave is senior veterinary officer with Agriculture Victoria.