Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Proper precautions to combat this debilitating condition will save you money

Charles Chavasse

The five main viruses that cause calf pneumonia in Ireland are:

1.Bovine Corona Virus

2.Bovine Respiratory Syncitial Virus (BRSV)

3.Parainflunza 3 (Pi3)

4.Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVD)

5.Infectious bovine Rhiontracheitis (IBR)

Bovine Corona Virus is the most commonly diagnosed respiratory virus in young calves, according to laboratory reports from the Department of Agriculture. There is no evidence that the commonly used Corona scour vaccines have any effect in the prevention of Corona pneumonia. The only way to manage and prevent Corona virus pneumonia is through adequate ventilation and moisture management.

With the national BVD eradication programme well underway, BVD as a cause and contributor to calf pneumonia should hopefully be a thing of the past very soon. However, the adult herd should remain in a BVD vaccination programme until eradication is complete.

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IBR in young calves is best prevented by considering the entire herd. Any animal that gets IBR is a carrier for life and is prone to shed the virus during periods of stress such as calving and during the transition cow period.

Vaccinating IBR carriers will help reduce the levels of IBR virus shedding within the herd, thereby reducing the levels of IBR spread to young susceptible animals and breaking the cycle of infection.


If there is an IBR problem diagnosed in your young calves, a live IBR vaccine should be used intranasally from two weeks of age, followed by an intramuscular booster at three months of age.

IBR vaccines work well, and vaccinating the main herd either on an annual basis with some of the inactivated IBR vaccines, or on a six-monthly basis with a live vaccine, is very effective in reducing the level of IBR within the herd, thereby protecting the young calves from exposure.

BRSV can be a serious challenge as it can cause serious respiratory disease in young calves, and can even kill them. There are a number of vaccines available to help prevent BRSV pneumonia.

Vaccines work in two ways: boosting the animal's immunity to the disease and also reducing the amount of virus produced from calves. When vaccinating for BRSV it is best to start the vaccine programme as young as possible, before the problem gets out of control. All calves in the herd should be vaccinated to prevent disease build up.

Pi3 is not as severe as BRSV but can allow serious bacterial pneumonia to develop. There are also a number of vaccines available to help prevent Pi3 and, as with BRSV, vaccinate as young as possible, treating all calves in the group.

When using vaccines make sure they are stored properly in advance of use, use correct dosage and check if the vaccine is a single dose administration or if a second dose is required for full protection.

There are many differences between available vaccines for young calves so make sure you follow individual manufacturers' instructions.


In summary, calf pneumonia has long-lasting and costly effects. Preventing pneumonia in young calves is possible but all aspects of management need to be considered.

If you are experiencing calf pneumonia issues in your herd, consult with your vet and get a full investigation carried out. Identifying the root cause of the problem can save a lot of money in both the short and long term.

Irish Independent