Pneumonia: How to defeat a calf killer
Pneumonia is the second biggest cause of calf mortality, but proper housing and early diagnosis can go a long towards beating the disease
We know more than ever about the causes, symptoms and treatments of pneumonia in calves. So why, after scour, does it continue to be the second biggest cause of calf mortality on our farms ?
There are no easy answers or magic solutions.
In my opinion, pneumonia continues to be an issue because too often we don't deal with all the contributing factors.
Also in a future where our choices of antibiotics will inevitably be more limited we must look at management at reducing risk and focus very much on prevention.
So what drops the immunity of calves to make them more susceptible?
- Not enough( less than 3litres), poor quality or timing (after six hours) of colostrum leaving natural immunity low
- Under-nutrition for prolonged periods
- Poor housing prolonged cold leading to dropped immunity levels.
- Calf scour or other diseases reduce immunity.
- Calves left outdoors during extreme changes in weather.
- And the following factors increase the exposure of viruses and bacteria that cause pneumonia in our calves?
- Calves sharing airspace with older animals who may be shedding viruses to more vulnerable young calves.
- Overcrowding causes stress which lowers immunity and also allows close contact between animals to spread disease
- Poor housing ventilation(too much/too little) can play a huge role in contributing to pneumonia.
- Any sort of stress particularly for long periods releases cortisol which lowers immunity and inhibits the body's ability to fight off disease.
So when dealing with calf pneumonia we must identify and address all these risk factors.
We also need to recognise the symptoms, because the earlier we identify and treat the disease the better the outcome.
Once damaged, the lungs don't heal and even when calves don't die they can have long term damage stopping them performing and growing.