About Summer Pneumonia in Cattle

The bacteria and viruses causing summer pneumonia in cattle are common in the environment, suggesting that the development of the disease in the herd is due to poor immune system that paves way for multiplication of the disease causing microorganisms. Some of the conditions associated with the summer period and understood to fan the disease include, alternating night low temperatures and daytime high temperatures; limited forage and dusty environment. In normal circumstances, these conditions are not known to cause pneumonia making summer pneumonia very unique.

Calves suffering from this disease will exhibit difficulty in breathing, cough accompanied by sputum, elevated body temperature and in severe stages, marked weight loss. If the cattle are not observed regularly, you may encounter deaths of calves while the rest in the herd show the summer pneumonia symptoms. Even with these symptoms, it is important to perform a necropsy in order to confirm the cause as pneumonia. This kind of examination can help unearth other causes of the sudden death such as Clostridium perfringens, black leg or digestive tract problems, and thus take the necessary measures. If this does not give any conclusive results, samples can be taken to the laboratory and more intensive diagnosis performed.

The respiratory effects of summer pneumonia can be reversed by the administration of antibiotics. However, this is only possible if early diagnosis of the disease is done. Cases of advanced damage to the calf’s lungs are difficult to treat and the animal will finally succumb to the disease. Additionally, antibiotic treatment may not be effective for the viral cases. The best remedy for summer pneumonia in calves is to prevent it by eliminating all the causative factors. The farmer may be required to shift the herd to a new area to lessen the exposure to dust, bad weather and poor forage.

The different bacteria and viruses that cause summer pneumonia can be controlled by ensuring that the herd has adequate forage and dwells in a friendly environment. One should also not forget the critical role played by a summer pneumonia vaccine. For a herd that has a history of summer pneumonia, vaccination is recommended for bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and parainfluenza 3. There are also vaccines for pneumonia causing bacteria of the genus Histophilus, Mannheimia and Pasturella. It is important to give these vaccinations during the “branding time” and “turnout” periods as this is when the calves are more vulnerable to infections. At this time the immune system is not yet fully developed and the reliance on the mother’s colostrums is reduced.

To choose from the available summer pneumonia vaccines, it is important to work with the veterinary to access the effectiveness and appropriateness of each vaccine. It is only after determining the correct timing of the right type of vaccine that prevalence of summer pneumonia in calves can be managed.

Owing to the inevitable pneumonia risk factors, it may not be entirely possible to evade cases of pneumonia in calves. This is even worse if you have a large number of calves in a herd where the possibility of summer pneumonia outbreak is very imminent. But there stands to be good results if during the weaning period of the calves the risk factors are dealt with. By timely vaccination of the herd, improving the environment is favorable and feeding them on a proper diet, the threat of the disease can be avoided. For the affected calves, antibiotics treatment remains the most effective remedy. In all the preventive and reversal attempts, it is important to realize the symptoms and diagnose the condition as fast as possible. Summer pneumonia manageability is enhanced only if the risks are reduced.

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