Plan to prevent pneumonia in dairy calves – Dairy Farmer

5 Oct 2017

Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs and is caused by interaction between the calf, its immunity, infectious bugs and the environment. “Cattle are particularly affected by pneumonia because they have relatively small lung capacity for their size and any disease damage causes problems,” says vet John Yarwood.

“Dairy calves are susceptible to pneumonia from a very young age and the disease is extremely common. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any farm rearing dairy calves which has never had first-hand experience of this financially damaging disease.”

Financial losses include deaths, high veterinary, labour and treatment costs and, significantly, depressed subsequent growth and milking performance in animals which appear to have recovered from the disease.

Dairy cows only reach breakeven point halfway through their second lactation, but if they had pneumonia as a calf they may never pay back. When it comes to managing the pneumonia threat, the best form of defence is attack through good preparation and drawing up sound disease prevention protocols and, on many units, this means the implementation of a vaccination strategy.

Mr Yarwood says: “Disease prevention should be your aim to stop pneumonia gaining a foothold on your unit. This way you will rear more resilient, faster growing dairy calves and minimise antibiotic treatments.

“Reactive treatment is not ideal anyway for optimum disease control, because permanent lung damage may already have occurred by the time y o u notice a sick calf, and this certainly compromises growth performance.

“We know if a dairy heifer calf puts on 1kg/day instead of 0.5kg/ day, it will produce an extra 1000 litres of milk in a lifetime.” He adds that many factors combine to cause pneumonia problems, such as calf housing ventilation, stress, infection pressure and calf immunity, for example.

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