Boost respiratory health with good management

Pneumonia in preweaned calves becomes a major concern in the spring and fall, but University of Wisconsin veterinarian and professor Sheila McGuirk said preventing pneumonia should be a year-around management priority.

In a recent issue of the Vita Plus Starting Strong newsletter, McGuirk said pneumonia is common as early as three weeks in dairy calves due to several factors:

  • At this time, immunity from the initial colostrum feeding may be wearing off.
  • Increasing nutritional needs may not be met (especially in cold weather).
  • The bedding and air in the calf"s environment may be progressively more contaminated with time of occupancy.

She advised the "basics" of calf care will help calves resist pneumonia. They include:

  1. A successful colostrum-feeding program.
  2. Moving the calf from the maternity or calving area soon after birth.
  3. Providing clean, dry bedding at all times.
  4. Providing fresh air in a well-ventilated environment.
  5. Delivering adequate nutrients to support maintenance, growth and immunity, noting that energy demands increase in cold weather.

McGuirk also advised routinely screening for pneumonia to catch the disease in its early stages. Her screening protocol includes observing calves during feedings (look for calves that are slow to get up for a feeding or reluctant to lie down afterward); taking rectal temperatures; and monitoring for coughs. Click here to access McGuirk"s Calf Respiratory Scoring Tool.

Determining the best course of therapy for pneumonia cases that do occur should be done by consulting with your herd veterinarian, said McGuirk. For more of her advice on preventing and managing calf pneumonia, visit

Source: Vita Plus Starting Strong newsletter



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