It is hard to know what season it is currently, if we were to go by the change in weather experienced over the past week.

At times, you would be forgiven for thinking we were in the middle of summer – then all of a sudden, there is a change in weather and a blast of blustery winter wind, rain, hail or even snow, makes its presence known.

With this change in weather comes the threat to the health of calves – especially with cases of pneumonia.


Pneumonia can strike in acute and chronic forms. Some of the ‘tell-tale’ signs will include coughing and seeing a spike in the calf’s temperature above 39.5°.

The calf will also appear ‘off form’ and farmers will see a dullness in their actions. The calf will also have a reduced feed intake, so keep an eye out to see if cows are suckled or if all calves are drinking from the teat feeder.

Watch for heavy breathing or ‘blowing’ from calves and look out for any nasal discharge that may appear.

Calf-to-beef, change in weather

Preventing pneumonia

The aim is to reduce and prevent this threat of pneumonia as far as possible.

For calves that are still housed, it’s the simple things to keep under control such as preventing draughts – while also having good ventilation.

If the farm has square bales of straw available for use, these can be used as shelter belts to block harsh breezes blowing into a calf shed. Ensure that their bedding is dry, cleaned regularly and suitable to provide warmth for the calf.

If you have young calves turned out to grass, try to make sure that they are in a field/paddock with options of shelter.

Avoid, if possible, any activities that may cause stress to calves over the next few days such as weaning or disbudding.

One good method of reducing the threat of pneumonia is by vaccinating the calves – which should be done in consultation with your local vet.

The foundation for prevention is providing newborn calves with sufficient levels of colostrum at birth. You need to to boost their immune system so they can battle these potential diseases and infections.