Friday, April 19, 2019

Pneumonia in Calves

Kari Lewis

Hot days and cool nights can predispose
calves to pneumonia, it's important to keep a
diligent eye on those older calves.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

As the weather warms up into spring, it often may feel that the ‘pressure is off’ when it comes to calving.  However, its important to not forget about the potential for pneumonia in those older calves.  As calves age, they have decreasing protection from maternal antibodies so their susceptibility to disease increases, especially in that time frame before they’ve received their branding time vaccinations.

When it comes to weather, these factors can predispose livestock to pneumonia. 
·         Dry and dusty conditions that irritate the lining of the respiratory tract
·         Large daily temperature swings such as hot days and cold nights
·         High humidity as moist air supports more pathogens than dry air

Calves that either received poor colostrum quality or insufficient quantity when they were born or have had inadequate nutrition are more susceptible to pneumonia.

Crowding, such as in barns, especially if there is poor ventilation or poor environmental sanitation increases the chance of pneumonia.  Any stress, such as calves being separated from their dams,

The possibility of pneumonia also increases if groups and ages of animals are mixed.  Mixing stresses animals and increases pathogen shedding, which exposes individuals to new pathogen strains.  When animals congregate, such as in cold and wet weather, concentrations of disease-causing organisms are increased as well, increasing their susceptibility. 

Signs of pneumonia include decreased activity, dropping ears, lowered head, coughing, nasal discharge, reduced feed intake (if you notice the cow hasn’t been sucked, for example), increased respiratory rate, fever, etc.  As pneumonia progresses, open mouth breathing may even be seen.  Severely affected animals will be reluctant to move and will have difficulty keeping up with the herd. 

Animals with pneumonia need to be treated in as low stress of a manner as possible with immediate treatment to minimize possibility of death.  Dehydrated animals would benefit from electrolytes.  Your veterinarian can help design a protocol for treating sick calves and also advise on proper calf vaccinations.

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