Bovine respiratory disease, or calf pneumonia as it is more commonly known, is the result of a complex interaction between viral and bacterial pathogens, environmental stress factors and the animal’s own resilience to disease. Calf pneumonia causes inflammation and damage of the lung tissue and airways, compromising lung function. In severe cases, the damage is irreversible andcan result in death, but even mild cases can significantly impact productivity

A range of viruses and bacteria can cause calf pneumonia; the viruses include:

  • Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV)
  • Parainfluenza 3 (PI-3)
  • Bovine Viral Diarrhoea Virus (BVDV)
  • Bovine Herpes Virus 1 (BHV-1)

The main bacterial causes of calf pneumonia are:

  • Mannheimia haemolytica (formerly Pasteurella haemolytica)
  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Histophilus somni
  • Mycoplasma bovis

In the UK, the cost of infectious respiratory diseases in young calves has been estimated at £60 million a year.(1) Calf pneumonia is the greatest single cause of morbidity and mortality in cattle in Ireland, responsible for 32% of deaths in this age group.(2) It is the most common reason for death and poor performance in calves and young, growing cattle and poses a huge cost to the dairy industry.(3)


  1. ADAS (2013) Economic Impact of Health and Welfare Final Report
  2. All Island Disease Report 2015, AFBI/DAFM Veterinary Laboratories
  3. Welsh Dairy Heifer Report (2015) Hybu Cig Cymru 

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Pneumonia effect on calves?

Pneumonia effect on calves?

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Minimising effects of calf pneumonia?

Minimising effects of calf pneumonia?

Developing monitoring strategies to identify cases early in the course of disease is critical. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment of calf pneumonia have recognised benefits:5 Improved response to treatment and quicker resolution of clinical signs Reduction in...

Impact of calf pneumonia for dairy calves

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Calf pneumonia represents a threat to calf health, welfare and farm profitability. Uncontrolled, pneumonia can have a substantial and wide ranging impact on a dairy enterprise. Mortality in replacement heifers poses a huge financial loss. A UK study showed that calf...

Impact of calf pneumonia for beef calves

Impact of calf pneumonia for beef calves

Calf pneumonia represents a threat to calf health, welfare and farm profitability and, as a consequence, has a substantial impact on a beef enterprise. Immediate impacts include high vet fees and medicine costs plus failure to reach growth targets. Extra costs of...

Managing calf pneumonia

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Why vaccinate against calf pneumonia?

Why vaccinate against calf pneumonia?

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Vaccination Top Tips

Vaccination Top Tips

✔ Vaccine selection: A vaccine protocol should be developed with a vet and take in to account the specific features and risks of the production system, history of disease and diagnostic test results. ✔ Calf health status: Resilience to disease and vaccine efficacy...

Dairy Youngstock Checklist

Dairy Youngstock Checklist

The first 24 hours of life ✔ Have clear protocols in place for the dam and newborn calf ✔ Set up a new system to allow ease of handling of dam and new born calf ✔ Test colostrum and only store/feed the best ✔ Focus on cleanliness and consistency of management...

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