11th April 2024

Top tips to reduce pneumonia in calves this spring

Reducing pneumonia in your calves should be a key priority this spring because of the long-term impact the condition could have on your herds’ performance, as well as the animal welfare implications.

Pneumonia is a highly contagious infection. It is caused by bacteria and viruses, which are spread through inhalation of airborne droplets that are produced when the calves sneeze or cough.

As one of the most significant diseases affecting calves, it is estimated to cost the cattle industry £50 million a year.[1] This disease is thought to be the reason that 14.5% of dairy heifers fail to make it to their first lactation.[2]

Beef calves have also been seen to have a reduction of up to 6kg per month.

Management techniques to reduce pneumonia in calves

To make sure that the calves receive the recommended amount of antibodies to give them the best immunity, they should be given 10% of their body weight in colostrum within their first 6 hours and the same amount again at 12 hours old.[3]

To avoid cross-contamination between the calves, it is important to avoid overstocking calf housing.

For calves housed within a building, the suggested minimum air space allocations are:[4]

  • 6m3 for newborn calves

  • 10m3 for calves over eight weeks

Individual calf pens should be:[5]

  • 1.5m long x 0.75m wide up to 4 weeks

  • 1.8m long x 1.0m wide up to 8 weeks

Calves older than 8 weeks should not be kept in individual pens. If calves are housed individually, they must be able to see and touch other calves through the pens’ barriers.

Minimum space requirements for group reared calves are:

  • 1.5m2 per calf up to 150kg (about 4 months old)

  • 2.0m2 per calf up to 200kg (about 6 months old)

Older calves tend to have better immunity and might be infected with the bacteria that causes pneumonia without showing symptoms. Therefore, do not to keep calves of different ages in the same space and work with younger calves before older ones.

Often calf sheds are only a few degrees warmer than the outside temperature, so insulate your calves with a thick straw bed and a row of straw bales to keep the worst of the chill out.

How can mechanical ventilation reduce pneumonia?

A positive pressure tube ventilation system, like Galebreaker’s VentTube Fresh, can help to improve ventilation in calf sheds by:

  • Gently pushing fresh air into the building in a regulated manner to provide consistent ventilation without draughts
  • Evenly distributing fresh air near calves at the optimal 0.25m/s speed
  • Circulating air without causing draughts that could chill calves due to the tube design controlling airflow
  • Reducing humidity below 60% and removing moisture, dust and other particles that pathogens thrive on
  • Regulating the temperature in the shed year-round to keep calves comfortable while removing excess heat and moisture

By precisely delivering fresh air replacement, Galebreaker’s VentTube Fresh can significantly improve air quality, hygiene and welfare in calf housing.

To find out if VentTube Fresh is right for you, call our office us on 01531 637900.


[1] https://ahdb.org.uk/knowledge-library/pneumonia-in-calves 

[2] https://www.msd-animal-health-hub.co.uk/DNOMF/Pneumonia


[4] https://media.ahdb.org.uk/media/Default/Imported%20Publication%20Docs/Dairy%20housing-youngstock%20and%20heifers.pdf

[5]  https://www.cafre.ac.uk/business-support/agriculture/dairy/dairying-technical-support/calf-environment/#:~:text=Minimum%20individual%20pen%20size%20should%20be%3A%201.5m%20long,long%20x%201.0m%20wide%20up%20to%208%20weeks