New youngstock health initiative aims to cut alarming calf losses

Beef Expo saw the launch of a major new industry-wide initiative aimed at improving the health of the nation’s youngstock.

The ‘Keeping Britain’s Youngstock Healthy’ campaign – orchestrated and driven by MSD Animal Health (known as Merck Animal Health in the US and Canada) – will help farmers, vets, the animal health trade and other industry stakeholders cut the alarming youngstock losses suffered by the British cattle sector.

“Nearly 2.5 million calves are born in Great Britain every year, but far too many fail to reach adulthood because of disease problems,” said Alfredo Sanz Moreno MRCVS from MSD Animal Health.

“On average 8% of calves are born dead or die within 24 hours of birth on British farms. These are appalling losses and significant costs the industry can ill afford to bear. Fortunately, industry stakeholders are committed to reversing the trend, but everyone must work together to give committed youngstock rearers the tools to make a real difference on farm. This new initiative aims to do just that,” he said.

This summer MSD Animal Health will roll out a multi-faceted, dynamic educational programme, which includes training and diagnostic tools for vets to help more proactive engagement with farmers over youngstock health issues, as well as best practice advice for calf rearers.

The initiative is supported by an educational website complete with practical video content and an opportunity to register for regular e-newsletters packed with topical youngstock management advice.

In commenting on the priority areas for improvement, Mr Sanz Moreno highlighted colostrum feeding practices, environmental management issues and disease prevention particularly.

“Unfortunately, up to 50% of calves born in Britain do not receive enough good quality colostrum. Addressing this alone would help the industry make great strides towards reversing such depressing youngstock loss statistics. It is also estimated that around 50% of livestock housing in Britain is not able to provide adequate ventilation. Infectious diseases too, particularly scours and pneumonia, continue to take their toll despite the fact that we have highly effective vaccines and other animal health products available to help farmers manage these problems,” he said.

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