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 bovine pneumonia



Bovine Pneumonia

Bovine pneumonia stubbornly remains one of the biggest costs to the cattle industry. We are all well aware that losses due to reduced weight gain, extra labour, reduced carcass quality and mortality far exceed the costs of treatment. This means that treating cases can be a very costly solution. Additionally, pneumonia can affect many more animals than you think, as cattle are very good at masking clinical signs.

Numerous abattoir surveys have found that many animals with pneumonia sadly go untreated. For example one study showed nearly half of all bullocks with lung damage at the abattoir had never been treated for pneumonia, meaning that the clinical signs had been missed.  Using technology to monitor for pneumonia is an interesting option that may help improve detection in the future. For example sensors that fit into a calf’s ear canal will flash in the event of an increase in temperature and intra-ruminal temperature monitoring boluses are being developed. However even with improved detection, prevention will always be king. Bovine pneumonia is a complex topic but here are some pointers to help you think about prevention this autumn.


Work with your vet to establish what you can do to improve your buildings. For example, a poorly designed shed will allow warm air to condense and fall, creating an ideal environment for viruses and bacteria to survive.



Although older calves may not be coughing they still carry viruses that can infect younger animals. Animals recently bought onto a holding must be kept separate. Ensure different groups don’t share the same airspace if possible by keeping animals in separate, consistent batches ensuring minimal mixing. At the very least stop all nose to nose contact between pens and watch your stocking density.



Treating animals early is key. Treated animals should be marked and separated to help prevent the spread of infection and allow for better nursing. Record all treatments and aim to reduce them on a month by month basis by focusing on prevention. Prophylactic antibiotics must be avoided but in some cases anti-inflammatories can be prescribed, to be given in milk or water to reduce stress after movement for example.



Work with your vet to create a vaccination plan adapted to your system. For example, calves born just before or during the winter housing period need a vaccine which works fast to provide protection and minimise viral loads in the shed. Bacteria such as Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida and Histophilus somni generally act as secondary invaders (taking hold once the viruses have reduced the animal’s resistance), causing further damage.

Excellent vaccines have now been developed to help tackle some of these. Protocols that use a viral vaccine followed by a bacterial vaccine can be a very interesting approach, but preparation is key, as farmers need to get the full vaccine on board before the stress event, such as housing.

If you would like further information or to speak to one of our vets, please contact Molecare Veterinary Services on 01392 872934 or visit #MVFHotTopics 



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Newsletter 652

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