Emergency? Call 01228 521 393

Contact Details Directions

Vet Cows Carlisle

Calf Pneumonia

What is it?

  • Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) or pneumonia usually occurs in young, housed calves.
  • It causes inflammation of the lung tissue and airways and can cause irreversible damage if severe. It is a common cause of death and poor performance.
  • Pneumonia costs the cattle industry approximately £50 million a year.
  • Cost of pneumonia varies between £43 per dairy calf and £82 per suckler calf.
  • It can be caused by a variety of difference viruses (such as RSV, IBR, Pi3, BVD) and/or bacteria (such as Mannhaemia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni, Mycoplasma bovis). Lungworm can also cause respiratory disease in cattle of all ages.
  • Environmental factors (see below) and immune status of the animal also contribute to this.

Signs of Pneumonia:

  • Reduction in feeding
  • Dull demeanour
  • Dropping of the head
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Nasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Raised temperature
  • Poorer growth rates or performance in more chronic cases
  • Death


  • Clinical signs
  • Farm history
  • Nasal swabs and/or bronchioalveolar lavage samples
  • Blood samples
  • Post-mortem
  • (Faecal samples if suspect lungworm)

Prevention and treatment:

  • Vaccination
  • Environmental factors:
    • Avoid mixing calves of different ages
    • Avoid overcrowding
    • Good hygiene
    • Good ventilation
    • Good drainage where relevant
    • Reduce dust as much as possible
  • Other management factors:
    • Adequate colostrum at birth (5% of the calf’s birth weight in first 4 hours but ideally in the first 20 minutes (so 2L for a 40kg calf or roughly 20mins on the dam), then another feed roughly 6 hours later, and good quality)
    • Reduce stresses especially at times of year when high risk of pneumonia (roughly a month after housing) including weaning, castration and disbudding/dehorning)
    • Clipping backs of housed calves to reduce sweating can help if relevant
    • Use calf jackets when colder weather
    • Reduce any other stresses as much as possible
  • Speak to your vet about a treatment protocol appropriate for your farm