Animal Health & Disease Management

Calf Pneumonia

Calf Pneumonia

Common names: Calf Influenza, Virus pneumonia, Enzootic pneumonia

Description: Pneumonia is a common disease of weaned calves and is the main cause of mortality and reduced growth rates (stunting) in weaner calves. It is often associated with  stress, overcrowding, poor feeding and bad housing. The disease often ends in death, and some recovered animals remain stunted (= not growing to normal size).

The main underlying cause of calf pneumonia is poor immunity of the calf related to stress and poor feeding. Different causative agents of respiratory infections in calves include:

  • Different Viruses e.g. the Respiratory syncytial virus, Para-influenza type 3, Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Coronavirus
  • Different Bacteria e.g. Pasteurella multocida and Mannheimia haemolytia, Streptococci, Haemophilus and Corynebacterium pyogenes.
  • Mycoplasmas e.g. Mycoplasma dispar, Mycoplasma bovis and the Acholeplasma laidlawii


Signs of Pneumonia

  • Rise in temperature which can be as high as 40.5 - 42 ÂșC accompanied by watery discharge from the eyes and noses.
  • Discharge from the nose later becomes thick and contains pus.
  • Rapid breathing and cough
  • More severely affected calves stand with their heads down, backs arched and breath very heavily with an effort to get enough air.
  • In very acute cases of pneumonia there can be death within less than 3 days



The disease is obvious from the respiratory signs accompanied by fever.


Prevention and Control

  • Proper ventilation to minimize draughts in a calf house
  • Avoid over crowding of calves in the house and pasture
  • Provide dry housing and warm bedding to prevent chilling and to reduce ammonia and other noxious gases which damage the normal protective mechanisms in the calf's respiratory system. High humidity in the calf house also leads to outbreaks of calf pneumonia.
  • Avoid mixing calves of different age groups and especially calves from different sources in the same air space.
  • As in calf diarrhoea, ensure early and adequate intake of colostrums after birth; colostrum from the mother is a free vaccination against common disease agents and protects again t calf pneumonia. In Europe and America there are vaccine against some of the calf pneumonia agents.


Recommended treatment

Sulphonamide and antibiotic treatment are very effective when given in good time. To avoid a relapse treatment must be continued for 3 days. If treatment starts late, after lung damage has occurred calves may die, or if they recover they remain stunted.

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