Mycoplasma bovis infection is caused by mycoplasma, the smallest free-living pathogen in animals. The pathogen attaches itself to mucosal surfaces, then invades tissue and liberates toxins that cause severe tissue damage. M. bovis also can suppress the immune system and increase the severity of disease caused by other pathogens.

Symptoms can appear two weeks after birth, with severe symptoms appearing later.

Symptoms include:

• Inner-ear infection. Calf may hold its head slightly lower than normal, have droopy ears and tilt its head.

• Discharge from eyes and nose.

• Increased respiration. Calf may experience faster breathing and struggle to draw air in and out of the lungs.

• Frequent, hacking cough.

• Fever. Low-grade early on, with minimal fever as infection becomes chronic.

• Arthritis. Usually seen one week after pneumonia and can involve swelling around the joints.

• Mastitis. Udder swelling and decreased milk production that is watery, flaky and tan or brown in color.

“Working with your veterinarian to develop a prevention strategy is the best way to keep mycoplasma from creating chronic problems with your herd’s health and profitability,” says Roger Winter, veterinarian at AgriLabs.