The importance of disease as a limiting factor in beef production may be highlighted by the problem of calf disease, where mortality as high as 5% may be considered as ‘acceptable’ and even 10% being ‘not unusual’. It is sad to think of passive acceptance of this undesirable situation, but there is ample support for the statistics quoted. The Ministry of Agriculture Calf Wastage Survey (Leech, Macrae and Menzies, 1968) recorded average losses of between 5 and 6% in the first 10 days of life. Some estimates suggest losses as high as 9% before 6 months of age which, on a national scale, presumably indicates a loss of 260 000 calves annually. Important though this is, wastage of calves is not the only source of loss—there are also diseases of the cow and mature fattening stock to be taken into account. Other surveys of wastage draw attention to the importance of these. However, it would be misleading to present a picture of gloom. Rather this paper will describe advances and successes due to veterinary research and also draw attention to new ways ahead which seem to be opening.