Be Wary of £50 Million Disease This Autumn

UK – Cattle farmers are being warned that the arrival of autumn brings with it the industry’s £50 million disease – pneumonia.
calendar icon 1 October 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

Minimising calf pneumonia on your farm can be achieved through maximising calf immunity, EBLEX advisers have announced.

Autumn represents a high risk period for pneumonia in which EBLEX says weaning stress and lower temperatures combine with housing and diet transitions.

Studies have shown that when there is a 30 per cent group of cattle infected with pneumonia, a further 40 per cent can have growth rates hampered without showing signs of infection.

Pneumonia causes inflammation, which can be irreversible, of the lung tissue and airways, according to EBLEX livestock scientist Poppy Frater.

“It is caused by many interacting factors, rather than a simple introduction of one bacteria or virus into a group of animals,” said Mrs Frater. “Often calves become infected with a virus first, followed by a secondary bacterial infection.”

And while vaccines can be helpful in preventing pneumonia, Mrs Frater warns that it will not work on its own.

“When animals are vaccinated during times of stress, or management is poor, then the vaccine is less likely to prevent disease.

“A vaccination protocol should be developed in consultation with the farm vet and should be scheduled to be completed at least two weeks prior to an anticipated stressful event.”

Mrs Frater recommends the following management prescriptions to reduce stress and limit exposure to disease agents.


• Ensure sufficient colostrum intake at birth
• Provide sufficient nutrition for growth
• Monitor and correct trace element status, particularly vitamin E/selenium

Physiological stress

• At weaning, consider creep feeding or housing at night only to start with to minimise stress
• Castrate and disbud calves while they are young and still benefiting from colostrum antibodies
• Reduce stress in transport, with good animal handling


• Avoid mixing different ages of cattle and avoid unnecessary group changes where possible

• Keep stocking rates at moderate levels


• Buildings must be well ventilated, but free from draughts at animal level
• Minimise temperature variation and extremes
• Avoid damp bedding materials

Concurrent disease

• Monitor and treat diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and coccidiosis.


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