Dairy health experts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center (NBC) have seen an increase in pneumonia cases this year, particularly in growing heifers and calves, resulting from the wide temperature swings and wet-warm weather in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. NBC experts have provided several important tips for area producers to aid in the prevention and management of pneumonia in dairy cows.
Producers should ensure that their operations offer good ventilation, which significantly impacts the air quality and cooling capacity necessary to prevent illness. Keeping curtains and windows open will allow for good air flow. Producers operating on older farms should consider installing a forced or tube installation system in their barns, and all operations can benefit from having an air-quality and air-flow test run on their facility.
Vaccinations are a key component to disease prevention, but only if they are utilized correctly. The best way to ensure that a vaccine program that will work well for a specific operation is to consult with a veterinarian, or have them develop a plan specific to the operation’s needs. Consider adding pneumonia-specific vaccinations just before the most challenging times the year, early and late winter, to provide added protection for your animals. Some intranasal vaccines are particularly helpful, and provide better localized immunity in the airways.
Be sure to avoid or minimize as many additional sources of stress as possible during the winter months. Transportinganimals, excessive intermingling, or bringing in new stock from outside sources or sale barns should be kept to a minimum if possible.
Monitoring animals regularly, checking for signs of illness and taking the temperatures of animals that present any symptoms, can help producers to recognize the existence of illness early, which will give the best chance of effective treatment and prevention of long-term damage.
Finally, if an outbreak does occur, fast and aggressive treatment is the key to success. Treat affected animals early, and consider isolating them to help prevent the disease from spreading. Blanket treatments, including feed through antibiotics, can be effective when dealing with a larger outbreak, but be sure to consult a veterinarian before doing so.