Calf pneumonia is one of the most common causes of illness and poor performance in housed calves from one to five months old.
A calf’s respiratory system is very vulnerable, their lungs only become fully mature when the animal is two years old. As a result, they have very little reserve capacity. In addition, the airways are relatively narrow, so they get easily blocked. Calf lungs are heavily segmented, and each segment has only one entry point for the airways. If this entry point gets blocked, the entire segment stops functioning. Respiratory problems can raise veterinary costs, reduce growth and increase loss of animals.
Four ways to minimise the risk of respiratory problems
A calf’s respiratory tract is vulnerable from four weeks onwards. Changing weather, high humidity, large differences between daytime and night-time temperatures and poor
housing conditions can all have a negative effect on a calf’s airways. Inadequate ventilation, crowded housing, mixing calves from different sources, and transportation, may also contribute to respiratory problems. That is why it is important to manage environmental conditions and hygiene, boost your calf’s immunity and maximise their respiratory health.
- Colostrum Management and Nutrition – ensure the calves get a sufficient amount of colostrum, this helps to improve their immune system in the first month. Aim for 4L of good quality, clean, colostrum within two hours of birth. Vital to maintaining health is providing calves with an adequate diet in the form of milk/milk replacer and starter feed, so they have sufficient calories for growth, immunity and maintenance.
- Climate and Housing – avoid overcrowding and variation in temperature and humidity as much as possible and ensure sufficient ventilation. Prevent cold stress in young calves by keeping them out of drafts and off cold flooring, calf coats are very effective at keeping calves warm; alongside ensuring they have plenty of straw.
- Vaccination – consult your vet to make sure the calves are vaccinated against the most important respiratory pathogens.
- Avoid Stressful Situations – stress results in lower immunity, so avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Consider a stepwise weaning programme and do not make sudden changes in the rations. Ensure each animal has sufficient space at the feeding fence. Avoid performing stressful procedures simultaneously, for example, do not dehorn calves at the same time as they are being weaned.
What to do if breathing gets difficult?
Act at the first cough! A prevention programme can only do so much, so it is important to recognise early signs of possible breathing problems, like coughing or a runny nose, and take action fast.
Farm-O-San Pulmosure; a complementary respiratory health product that is formulated to help enhance animals breathing through the inclusion of eucalyptus oils, which increases
mucus production and boosts mucociliary clearance of unwanted particles inhaled by the calf. It has a natural source of vitamin E and organic selenium yeast, which is there to
help aid and support the immune function of the calf, leading to higher proportion absorbed by the animal. This product is available in many different forms such as; top dressing on feed, soluble inclusion in milk powders, molassed mineral buckets, and salt blocks.
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