Mycoplasma Bovis is the number-one cause of pneumonia in calves, and diagnoses have soared in recent years.

But it is difficult to treat and to identify in the early stages, and until now the only preventative option was creating an expensive – and narrowly targeted – autogenous vaccine. Fortunately, producers now have a more cost-effective choice, in the form of an import vaccine.

Created in the US, trials have shown that vaccinating cattle reduced mortality by nearly 40 per cent, to 5.8 per cent against a control of 9.6 per cent. It also reduced lung lesion scores by 56-64 per cent, and nearly tripled the antibody response.

But M. Bovis doesn’t just cause pneumonia. Much like BVD, it has a plethora of other symptoms, including mastitis, arthritis, immunosuppression and otitis, leading to increased antibiotic use and hampering herd performance. 

Graeme Fowlie, director of Meadows Vets in Aberdeenshire, said: “Control is difficult and involves individual or group treatments, and isolation of clinical cases. As a vet it’s frustrating not being able to prevent the most common cause of pneumonia, despite utilising extensive vaccines for other farms.

“I’m also keen to promote best practice in trying to reduce antibiotic dependence. You shouldn’t be living with BVD on your farm and it’s the same with M. Bovis – it needs to be the next target for eradication.”

Mr Fowlie has set up the UK’s first on-farm trials to ascertain the effectiveness of Myco-B, a vaccine developed in the US and which has now been granted a temporary import license, via Kernfarm, for use in the UK, under veterinary prescription.

“I’m delighted to be working with Kernfarm to introduce what might be the missing link to pneumonia prevention,” he said.

Vets must apply for a Special Treatment Certificate before ordering Myco-B and can prescribe it under the Cascade system.

The trials feature four dairy farms, varying from 170 to 400 cows, which have tested positive for M. Bovis. Cows and in-calf heifers are being vaccinated at drying off or at least four weeks pre-calving. Calves born into the trial will receive a booster at 60 days old in line with the standard vaccine licence.