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 As an experienced calf rearer at my family-run farm in West Glamorgan, South Wales, I’ve dealt with a fair few cases of pneumonia over the years – so it seems only right that I share the story of how I went about resolving those issues once and for all. As most dairy farmers will know, pneumonia can have serious implications on a calf’s welfare, causing loss of form and stunted growth, which both contribute to poorer yields and productivity. These conditions can then lead to lower food conversion rates, laboured breathing and stress, all of which are major issues for any farm.

Identifying the problem

On a three week turnaround I have an average of 70 to 80 calves in my sheds. However, it was when I came to move one lot of 50 young stock into another shed that I noticed something was seriously wrong. The condition of the calves was so severe that I was forced to call on my local vet, who immediately concluded that my stock had contracted pneumonia.

Naturally, I wasted no time in having every calf vaccinated and given a dose of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories – all of which came at significant expense. With a large herd though, another serious outbreak of pneumonia could be catastrophic for both the cows and my livelihood, so I simply couldn’t allow the same thing to happen again.

Putting ventilation to the test

Having heard that cattle housed in badly ventilated sheds are at higher risk of contracting infections, I decided to test the air movement in the building by using smoke pellets to see how quickly smoke left the building. By carrying out this simple test, it clearly identified that the air was being ineffectively filtered out – making me well aware that I had a ventilation problem.

The health of my cattle was my biggest priority, so I went in search of a solution that would allow the built-up, warm, stale air to escape from the building, while allowing fresh air to be introduced in a controlled manner. It was then that I sought the expertise of the agricultural ventilation specialists at Hydor.

A draught-free solution

Before long, I was investing in a Tube Ventilation System. Fitted above animal height, the plastic ducting contains small openings which allows air to disperse evenly to deliver a constant supply of fresh air without a draught. The system ensures even temperatures, regardless of outside weather temperatures. By providing fresh air direct to the calves, I can link the system to temperature and humidity sensors, which adjust the volume of air accordingly through the ducting.

The outcome

With limited disruption to the livestock, the easy to install, low running cost system has drastically cut the risk of pneumonia. As a result, I’ve seen a significant reduction in vet bills, and now only have to vaccinate 1 in every 70 calves, compared to 1 in 10 previously.

I’m currently in the process of looking to build a new calving shed, as I look to grow the farm. Having prevented significant outbreaks of pneumonia in my original shed, I have no doubt that I’ll be using the same ventilation fans in the next one too.

Rhys Lewis, BBC Young Farmer of the Year 2012 To find out more about our HVSS Tube Venitlation System, download the brochure.