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Preventing Calf Pneumonia: Good Ventilation is Vital...

Debby Brown BVMS GPcertFAP MRCVS

Calf pneumonia costs the UK dairy industry millions of pounds each year. Poorly ventilated housing is a key factor on many units, exacerbated by the pressure on buildings caused by expanding dairy herds.


Either viral or bacterial infections are more likely to occur on units with poor calf house hygiene and ventilation, high levels of stress and immune-supressing diseases present in the herd, such as BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea).

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Initial signs are a loss of appetite and a temperature, followed by listlessness, sunken eyes, laboured breathing, and coughing.

The first symptom seen may be death if the infection is severe, as can be the case with viral pneumonia, such as RSV. It’s vital to seek veterinary help to determine whether pneumonia is viral or bacterial as this will determine prevention and treatment protocols.


Good husbandry is vital. Calves should be housed, according to age and at an appropriate stocking level, in dry, clean, and well-ventilated accommodation, without drafts. Mixing calves of different ages can increase the risk of pneumonia.

There should be an air inlet of at least 0.05 square metres per calf and an outlet of at least four times this area. Stress should be kept to a minimum and vaccination against viral pneumonia should be carried out where there is a known and severe problem.


Sick calves should be isolated wherever possible. And they should be treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and antibiotics if deemed necessary.

For more information and advise, contact your DN Sales Specialist...

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