Cut Down on Sick Days

Tom Van Dyke, DVM, Merial Veterinary Services

Sick days must be dealt with in any workplace. Though no one wishes illness upon anyone, sick days mean loss of production because the remaining workers sometimes must neglect their own post and cover for the no shows. Meanwhile, overall expenses continue or may even go up, and overall efficiency drops. Even after prolonged absences, there is still the expectation that the sick worker will be back to full productivity and efficiency upon return. Nevertheless, the attempt should be made to minimize the number of sick days.

But what if every day sick reduced the chances of ever coming back to full production? This is exactly the case when talking about illness in general – and BRD specifically – in replacement dairy heifers. Though obviously not in production yet, the job of the dairy calf is to achieve timely entry into the milking herd, prepared for a long and productive lactating life without excessive rearing costs. BRD represents a considerable concern due to the high economic and welfare costs accrued both in the time of sickness and in the future.1,2,3

It is easy for dairy producers to see the immediate costs of BRD, such as veterinary services, medication, labor and death loss.1,3 But there are less obvious and more ravaging long-term costs. BRD has negative effects on dairy heifer growth, age at first calving, dystocia, mortality, milk production in first lactation and lifetime profit.1,2,3

Every sick day in the young dairy heifer takes its toll on future production.1 So, how do you minimize BRD sick days?

Dairy producers can make meaningful improvements in calf health and performance by focusing on management interventions that reduce exposure to respiratory pathogens and improve the immune status of the calf.2,3 Strategic use of antimicrobials for control (prevention) or as a treatment after early detection has also been recommended as a tool to reduce sick days in calves.1

BRD is often observed following the first movement to group housing after weaning.2Studies have shown treatment of calves with the appropriate antimicrobial at this first movement significantly reduces the incidence of BRD in the subsequent 60 days.1 These calves grew better, were more likely to survive to first lactation, were younger at first calving and were less likely to have calving difficulty.1 Calves with no BRD reported within 60 days after this control therapy also produced more milk on the first test day after calving.1

Producers should work with their veterinarian to help minimize BRD risk factors, determine the threatening pathogens and develop appropriate prevention and treatment protocols. Taking these management measures can help minimize the detrimental consequences of BRD.

About Merial

Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health and well-being of a wide range of animals. Merial employs 6,100 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide with more than €2 billion of sales in 2014.

Merial is a Sanofi company.

For more information,please see,


©2015 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. RUMILGN1526 (03/15)

  1. Stanton AL, Kelton DF, Leblanc SJ, Wormuth J, Leslie KE. The effect of respiratory disease and a preventative antibiotic treatment on growth, survival, age at first calving, and milk production of dairy heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 2012;95:4950–4960.
  2. McGuirk S, Ruegg P. Calf Diseases and Prevention, University of Wisconsin-Madison Publication, Available at Accessed March 3, 2015.
  3. Leslie K. Health and Immune Function of Dairy Calves. Western Canadian Dairy Seminar Advances in Dairy Technology. 2012;24:177-188.