RECENT WET and mild weather has seen an increase in calf pneumonia cases reported in January, later than the traditional October to December peak in incidence.

Whether global warming is at fault, or not, pneumonia is proving an increasing problem in later winter months in recent years, warns independent vet consultant Tony Andrews. He has picked up this trend in cases from vets who report to him through the National Animal Disease Information Service.

These later cases mean producers should continue management practices which aim to minimise incidence. “Ensure there are no more than 30 calves in one environment to limit challenge and at least 10 atmosphere changes each hour through adequate ventilation,” he advises.

“Drainage and ventilation are key, as is dry bedding. Calves can be cold, but they must not be in a draft. And when you know you have a pneumonia problem, find out which bug it is and vaccinate according.”

Older calves are also at risk, says Dr Andrews. When coats appear damp in the morning, he advises clipping their backs out, allowing sweat to escape.

The results from a scientific review, commissioned by Pfizer Animal Health, indicate that two-thirds of apparently unaffected penmates may also suffer lung damage and impaired growth rates, when one animal has pneumonia.

The company uncovered a study which examined lungs from 469 cattle after slaughter. In animals that had never shown clinical signs or been treated for pneumonia, 68% had scars in the lungs, reports Pfizer. Among those which had shown obvious clinical signs and been treated for pneumonia, this figure was only marginally higher at 72%.

Pfizer’s vet adviser Carolyn Hogan says viruses are responsible for a large percentage of pneumonia outbreaks. “Producers can protect stock through vaccination, particularly against the four main viruses that initiate or are implicated in pneumonia, RSV, P13, IBR and BVD.”

chrissie.lawrence@rbi.co.uk