Pneumonia issues

I have had a number of reports this week of pneumonia in calves and weanlings in sheds.

Recent mild weather has meant sheds with poor ventilation have struggled to get enough air movement and this had led to health problems.

Stress is a big factor, so make sure animals aren’t under any nutritional or parasite stress. In the face of an outbreak, seek veterinary advice and don’t stress calves too much.

While vaccinating calves intranasally can work quicker and give faster cover, when you vaccinate in the middle of a pneumonia outbreak, animals have high temperatures and are actively shedding virus which can hinder the treatment.

Wait until all calves are fully clear of pneumonia until proceeding with stressful tasks such as dosing, weaning or castration. Check your ventilation and see if some temporary measure like taking off a few side sheets could get you through this winter.

Make sure calves have a clean dry bed at all times and don’t stock sheds too heavily. Know the signs of sick animals and make sure animals, especially weanlings and young calves, are herded twice daily. Cattle off feed or dull require attention. A normal temperature for a weanling or calf is around 38-39°C. Identifying sick animals early is vital. Talk to your vet about a plan to avoid further outbreaks.

Stock bull

If stock bulls are neglected during winter, it can have a negative impact on their fertility and functionality in the next breeding season.

Take care where bulls are housed on straw-bedded pens with no access to concrete areas as feet can become overgrown and tender. It’s also important that the bull does not lose too much condition over the winter. It’s important that a stock bull is fit and not fat. In most cases, ad-lib access to good-quality silage plus 3-4kg of a balanced ration is adequate to hold or build some condition over the winter. Avoid feeding rolled barley on its own as this could increase incidence of feet problems.

Make sure the bull receives all doses and vaccinations the herd gets. If outwintered or housed separately, they can often be forgotten about. Always be cautious when handling stock bulls and never enter a pen on your own with a bull.

Dates for the diary

We are partnering with AXA Insurance to roll out a Winter Cattle Series in November and December. The first of two webinars will take place on Thursday 25 November at 8pm. It will cover all aspects of winter feeding including silage quality, ration formulation, supplementation rates and target weight gains. The second webinar will take place on Thursday 2 December at 8pm. It will cover all aspects of animal health including fluke and worm dosing, vaccinations and ventilation and lying and feeding space requirements. For more, see If you have questions you would like answered on the night you can email them to or whatsapp to 086 8366465. Questions can also be asked live on the night via Irish Farmers Journal social media channels.