Holistic approach needed to tackle Mycoplasma bovis

Mycoplasma bovis is becoming endemic in the UK’s beef and dairy herds, and farmers must do more to tackle it.

A common cause of pneumonia in calves, the disease also causes mastitis, arthritis, and otitis, and can be difficult to treat, warns Graeme Fowlie, director of Meadows Vets in Aberdeenshire. “UK Veterinary Investigation Diagnosis Analysis data shows a sharp rise in M. bovis diagnoses since 2013 – it is a serious problem, which needs addressing.”

Given that the disease cannot be treated by many common antibiotics, prevention is much better than cure – and with a multi-factorial disease like M. bovis, it’s important to adopt a multi-pronged approach to tackle it, says Mr Fowlie.

Unlike many other diseases, there is no licensed vaccine for Mycoplasma bovis in the UK; autogenous vaccines are an option, but can be slow and expensive to produce. Fortunately, he has recently assisted the VMD in securing a license to import a multi-strain Mycoplasma bovis bacterin-based vaccine from the US, which can now be prescribed in the UK under the Cascade system.

Meadows Vets have begun UK-based trials on a number of dairy farms where calf pneumonia, due to M. bovis, was a recurring problem. In US trials, vaccinating beef cattle reduced mortality by nearly half and nearly tripled the antibody response. It also reduced lung lesion scores by 56-64%. “Vaccinating is only ever one part of the answer, so it’s important to adopt a holistic approach, guided by your vet, including stringent biosecurity measures,” adds Mr Fowlie. 

“You shouldn’t be living with M. bovis on your farm – it needs to be the next target for eradication.” Meadows Vets will report on its trial results later this year. “I’m extremely hopeful that it will be the extra tool in the box that the industry is looking for.”

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.