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Calf health from birth to weaning. III. housing and management of calf pneumonia

Ingrid Lorenz1*, Bernadette Earley2, John Gilmore3, Ian Hogan4, Emer Kennedy5 and Simon J More16

Author Affiliations

1 Herd Health and Animal Husbandry, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

2 Animal and Bioscience Research Department, Teagasc, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Grange, Dunsany, Co. Meath, Ireland

3 Emlagh Lodge Veterinary Centre, Elphin, Co. Roscommon, Ireland

4 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Regional Veterinary Laboratory, Knockalisheen, Limerick, Ireland

5 Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland

6 Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

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Irish Veterinary Journal 2011, 64:14  doi:10.1186/2046-0481-64-14

Published: 21 October 2011


Calfhood diseases have a major impact on the economic viability of cattle operations. A three part review series has been developed focusing on calf health from birth to weaning. In this paper, the last of the three part series, we review disease prevention and management with particular reference to pneumonia, focusing primarily on the pre-weaned calf. Pneumonia in recently weaned suckler calves is also considered, where the key risk factors are related to the time of weaning. Weaning of the suckler calf is often combined with additional stressors including a change in nutrition, environmental change, transport and painful husbandry procedures (castration, dehorning). The reduction of the cumulative effects of these multiple stressors around the time of weaning together with vaccination programmes (preconditioning) can reduce subsequent morbidity and mortality in the feedlot. In most studies, calves housed individually and calves housed outdoors with shelter, are associated with decreased risk of disease. Even though it poses greater management challenges, successful group housing of calves is possible. Special emphasis should be given to equal age groups and to keeping groups stable once they are formed. The management of pneumonia in calves is reliant on a sound understanding of aetiology, relevant risk factors, and of effective approaches to diagnosis and treatment. Early signs of pneumonia include increased respiratory rate and fever, followed by depression. The single most important factor determining the success of therapy in calves with pneumonia is early onset of treatment, and subsequent adequate duration of treatment. The efficacy and economical viability of vaccination against respiratory disease in calves remains unclear.

Calf health; Disease prevention; Disease management; Suckler calf weaning; Castration; Dehorning; Housing; Pneumonia