Don Sockett, veterinarian at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory recently discussed respiratory disease in dairy calves at the 2011 Land O’Lakes Purina Feed Calf Wise VIP Conference in St. Louis, Mo. For respiratory disease prevention and management on-farm, he offered these points to calf and heifer managers:

Respiratory diseases generally start in pre-weaned calves. However, the disease usually isn’t recognized until the calf is weaned and after significant lung damage has already occurred.

The estimated cost of pre-weaned pneumonia is about $15 per calf per year.

These factors should be considered when monitoring air quality:

  • Pen and building design and size.
  • Bedding choice and management.
  • Ventilation.

Other factors to consider when creating a preventative management plan include:

  • Air movement and quality.
  • Water – availability and cleanliness.
  • Nutrition’s impact on immunity.
  • Umbilical disinfection.
  • Animal density, bedding, overall cleanliness.
  • Heat and cold stress.
  • Evaluation of weaning process.
  • Testing for bovine respiratory disease pathogens.