Over 2 million1 calves in Ireland every year, but unfortunately far too many fail to reach adulthood because of disease. The incidence rate of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) or calf pneumonia, as it is more commonly known, is approximately 20%2.

Calf pneumonia is the greatest single cause of morbidity and mortality in cattle in Ireland, responsible for 32% of deaths in this age group3. Hence, it is a cause of major economic loss for the cattle industry.

At a farm level these costs are in the region of €49 per dairy calf and €93 per suckler calf4. So what makes up these costs? Surprisingly, only 40% is represented by vets’ fees and medicines, the remaining 60% results primarily from mortality, reduced growth rates and reduced lifetime performance.

The Facts

  • The cost of non-fatal production losses to the EU cattle industry is €576 million5.
  • Calf pneumonia is the biggest known cause of mortality in calves aged between 1 month and 1 year of age, and is a major contributor to the losses that see an average of 14.5% of live born dairy heifers failing to reach their first lactation6.
  • Daily liveweight gains, targeted at 0.8kg/day, can drop as low as 0.4kg/day after an episode of respiratory disease5. This growth check increases production costs, and can directly result in a reduction in lifetime productivity.

Our Survey

We have conducted a UK and Ireland wide survey to investigate calf pneumonia control practices on cattle farms.

To see the results of the survey click here.


1 Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (2016) AIM Bovine Statistics Report 2016
2 Atkinson, 0. (2016) Welsh Dairy Heifer Report. Hybu Cig Cymru
3 All Island Disease Report 2015, AFBI/DAFM Veterinary Laboratories
4 Andrews AH (2000) Calf Pneumonia Costs! Cattle Practice 8(2)
5 Stipkovits L., Rosengarten R., & Frey L. (1999) Mycoplasmas of ruminants: pathogenicity, diagnostics, epidemiology and molecular genetics, Edition: Volume 3, Chapter: Impact of mycoplasma infections on respiratory disease in cattle in Europe, Publisher: European Cooperation on Scientific and Technical Research, 18-32
6 Brickell, et al. (2009) Mortality in HF calves and replacement heifers in relation to bodyweight and IGF-1 concentration on 19 farms in England. Animal 3(8) 1175-1182

Discover #CALFMATTERS