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Pneumonia Lasts a Lifetime

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Pneumonia Lasts a Lifetime
By Milloe Hendy, Calf & Youngstock Specialist 4 days ago

Losses caused by pneumonia in calves arise from: - veterinary attention, cost of treatment, reduced weight gain, increased feed requirements, increased labour. As well as longer finishing times and lower milk yields.

Pneumonia Lasts a Lifetime

APHA Surveillance Data for Pneumonia Pathogens 2012-2017

Many pathogens can contribute to calf pneumonia but mixed infections are also common. It’s important to work with your vet to diagnose the cause of pneumonia accurately to treat accordingly. But also, re-test regularly because pathogens can change over time.

Alongside inconsistent management, poor hygiene, inadequate ventilation and environmental issues calves can become stressed, which increases their likelihood of becoming ill. When a calf is stressed the pathogens living in the respiratory tract become pathogenic and cause pneumonia.

Value - Dairy heifers

  • Cost per case: minimum of £43.25 per sick calf with an added cost of £29.58 per calf in the group, not showing clinical signs.
  • Pneumonia is the most common cause of death and poor performance in dairy cattle under one year of age with 14.5% of dairy heifers failing to reach their first lactation due to pneumonia
  • Daily live weight gains targeting 0.8kg/day can drop to 0.4kg/day and may never recover completely increasing lifetime costs and reducing efficiency of production
  • Dairy heifers have an average of 150kg reduced milk production in their first lactation; a 30 day increase in time to first calving; and a 29 kg reduction of body weight at 14 months

Value – Beef cattle

  • Animals with lung damage have a lower growth rate than those with healthy lungs
  • There is an increased risk of losing 12-18-month-old cattle if they were infected by pneumonia as a young calf
  • A study of 1,239 cattle across 71 finishing units showed that finishing time can be delayed by 33-59 days for cattle with pneumonia and those not showing clinical signs but simply housed with cattle with clinical pneumonia

To maximise calf health and the efficiency of nutrition, prevention is better than cure, there are many steps to decrease the risk of infection and transmission of pneumonia.

To help prevent incidence of pneumonia it is crucial for the calf to receive good colostrum, with colostrum providing an instant energy source and essential antibodies.

Also, where possible, reduce stress factors from bought in calves by supplying them with a clean, well bedded and well-ventilated environment free from disease.

Identification and treatment

A calf with pneumonia will often have an elevated temperature; this being above 39.5﮿C. Other signs include coughing, heavy breathing, tucked up appearance and runny nose.

It is important to identify sick animals exhibiting clinical signs of the disease, as these calves will act as a reservoir of infection, increasing the exposure to the entire group.

A vaccination programme can have a positive impact on the welfare of the herd and can improve profits for the farm. Vaccinations will increase an individual calf’s immunity and reduce the amount of circulating pathogen in the environment. A programme should be discussed with your vet and be farm specific.

For specialist advice, contact the Wynnstay Calf & Youngstock team.