Dairy farmers are being warned not to be fooled into thinking the risk of pneumonia in calves disappears as temperatures rise this spring.

Although the overall incidence of pneumonia decreases in spring and summer as the weather warms up, calves that are housed are still at risk, and therefore should be protected.

According to the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (APHA) GB Cattle Disease Surveillance Dashboard, during the spring and summer months from April to September 2018 there were 282 pneumonia diagnoses.

Carolyn Hogan, National Veterinary Manager at Zoetis, said: “For most pneumonia cases, samples are not submitted for diagnostics, and therefore these figures don’t tell us the total incidence of pneumonia in the UK.

"They do tell us when calves are getting pneumonia. A significant proportion (35 percent) of the pneumonia diagnoses were made between April and September 2018, showing that pneumonia problems continue during the spring and summer months, and that this isn’t just a winter problem.”

A calf’s susceptibility to pneumonia is influenced by the strength of its immune system. Key factors which influence immunity include:

⦁ Adequate colostrum intake given as quickly as possible after birth

⦁ Nutrition, and management of dietary changes

⦁ Management practices

⦁ Stress - transportation, sudden feed changes, overcrowding,

⦁ Environment – poor ventilation, high humidity, damp bedding, temperature fluctuations, draughts

⦁ Mixing animals of different ages groups within the same airspace

Vaccination is important in protecting calves against the infectious agents that cause pneumonia. Vaccination works by increasing the calves’ immunity (so they are better able to fight off infection) and reducing the challenge, by reducing the amount of virus the calves breathe out.