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  • Writer's pictureKaty Stanlake

GB Calf Health Week - Housing

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Prevention of pneumonia in calves

The costliest problem in young stock rearing will be pneumonia on almost all farms, so many factors come into play.

How to spot the sick calves? In the early stages the signs could be quite hard to notice. The first sign is the presence of fever >39.5 °C. Other signs include dullness, unwilling to feed, increased respiratory rate, nasal discharge (clear and watery that will become thick as the disease progresses), coughing, weeping eyes, separation from the group.

Preventative measures with management, environment and housing are simple yet it can be difficult to consistently achieve the desired results!

Here are our FOUR key points to consider when reviewing calf housing.

1. Provision for a healthy calf

Disease is over ten times more likely in calves with poor colostrum intake. Colostrum is more potent and cheaper than any vaccine or medicine. If you are worried about poor colostrum intake or poor passive transfer, a blood sample can easily be taken from the calf or group of calves from one to seven days of age, and a total serum protein test can be performed. Animals with a total serum protein level of under 5.2g/dl may have poorer ability to fight disease. Total protein is measured using a refractometer (pictured) at the practice with results available the same day.

2. Control of moisture in the environment

Over a tonne of water passes through a calf into the environment during rearing. Would you be happy to lie down in your calf pen? Please kneel down in your calf pens, if your knees get wet, it is a risk factor for pneumonia.

3. Provision of plentiful clean air

Viruses die ten times quicker in clean dry air than stale moist air. If a shed smells of cattle it is not adequately ventilated. Smoke bombs are a cheap and easy way to visually assess airflow issues in calf houses. Smoke should clear in two to three minutes with good ventilation.

4. Control of air speed at calf height

Good ventilation is important in the barns where your calves are housed but, wind speed should be less than one metre per second down at calf level. You can measure that using smoke pellets. Generally all partitions and gates should be sheeted

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