Veterinarian: With vital lungs, a cow gives 525 liters more milk

The lungs of young calves are very weak. Within hours of infection, the respiratory organs can be damaged and this can hardly be remedied. More than 25 percent of calves develop pneumonia in the first year of life. Symptoms are cough, fever, lethargy and lack of appetite. But often the condition is also not visible.

A cow that contracted pneumonia as a calf produces an average of 525 kilograms less milk than an animal with healthy lungs. At 60 cents of milk, this would mean a loss of revenue of 315 euros. “The prevalence is significant, in some calves the lungs were so damaged that they produced 900 kilograms less milk,” says veterinarian Henk Kuijk of MSD Animal Health Benelux.

Kuijk points to an American study in which the lungs of calves were scanned using a scanner. This is how they also referred to “invisible” pneumonia.

The fight for healthy lungs is paying off, as the calf grows about 100 grams more each day if it does not have inflamed lungs. Grow into a lively calf and live an average of 10 percent longer.

Keep calves with their regular peers as much as possible

Henk Kuijk, veterinarian at MSD Animal Health Benelux

Calves are most at risk from about four weeks after birth to several weeks after weaning. They are often protected in the first weeks of life thanks to the good gift of colostrum, but then they have to do it themselves. Koijc finds that many farmers do well with colostrum. That has improved greatly in the past five years. Very important because it strengthens resistance.

A growing group of ranchers is checking the quality of their colostrum. This includes cattle farmer Angie Green from Bedinghuizen in Flevoland. According to her, good colostrum is the basis of vital calves. “Within two hours after birth, we give the calves colostrum with a Brix value of at least 25. If the colostrum isn’t all right, you’re 1-0 behind. Vital calves eat more, are healthier and grow faster.

According to Kuijk, dairy farmers’ knowledge about animal health, and certainly about small livestock farming, has improved greatly in recent decades. I’ve been a vet for 37 years and can see farmers have changed. This is very interesting. Their level of education is higher and they often work with supportive health programmes.

Dr. Paul

Koijk says firmly that the focus is more on keeping the animals healthy. “When I started out as a veterinarian, I was mainly busy making sick animals better, just like Dr. Paul does,” points out the well-known Dutch vet in America.

Prevention is also very important with pneumonia. Kuijk insists on a comprehensive system in which you place calves as closely as possible in fixed groups. This way you reduce stress and inflammation.

Good stable climate

A good barn climate, avoiding drafts and cold water, is another preventive measure. On dairy farms, Kuijk regularly catches cold due to air leaks. For example, you can take a smoke test, which provides insight right away. I often see air leaking under the corrugated iron, you can solve that by purging the corrugations.

However, there must be adequate ventilation in the barn. Kuijk points out the old stables crowded in the past where the smell of ammonia lingered for a long time. This can irritate the mucous membranes of the calves. Fresh air is required to get rid of this stale air.


In addition, the animals should lie on a clean, dry and warm surface. Just go sleep on a wet sheet for a few hours. “Then you also become more susceptible to infection,” says Koijk. “Finally, there are vaccines that protect the calf against pneumonia.”

A final piece of advice from Kuijk is to provide young calves with a small blanket for the first six weeks, especially in modern stables. “Without a blanket, the calf gets cold faster and you spend a lot more food on warming the animal.”

Webinary December 7th: Raising Calves and Watching Cows

Nieuwe Oogst and MSD are organizing a webinar on December 7 at 8 pm on all aspects that make for successful calves rearing. Healthy calves contribute to greater job satisfaction and a better operating outcome. The webinar focuses on stable climate, group cleavage, and building resistance. Participants also receive an explanation about the SenseHub cow monitoring software. This system provides dairy farmers with information about the health of their animals, feed efficiency and fertility. You can register at

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