Health Risks & Diseases

Man with a calf

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD)

Pneumonia or Bovine Respiratory Disease is the most common disease in calves more than one month old. Areas of the lung emboli die, and the damage is significant and permanent. Even if animals recover, their performance during their lifetime is compromised1. Multiple factors can trigger this disease. Vaccination protects young calves against the severity of pneumonia and may control outbreaks along with improvement of nutrition, hygiene, stress, housing conditions and the general immunity level in the herd.

Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) in cattle

Bovine Viral Diarrhea is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus transmitted by infected animals. Fertility problems are a sign of infection along with a low immune response. This low immunity makes infected animals vulnerable to all kinds of other diseases. If the dam is infected during pregnancy, she will give birth to a persistently infected (PI) calf that will spread high levels of the virus to other animals. The direct and indirect costs and production losses of BVD are high2. To prevent BVD, it is important to know if you have PI animals on your farm. These animals should be removed. Herds can be protected through vaccination, regular monitoring and biosecurity measurements to prevent introduction of the circulating virus.Learn More About BVD

Calf Scours

Calf scours is the most common cause of death in calves. It accounts for most deaths in calves less than one month old3. Pathogens such as rotavirus, coronavirus, Cryptosporidium and E. coli are major causes of infectious calf scours. Most farms have one or all of these pathogens4. Young calves are very vulnerable in the first weeks of life and multiple factors (e.g., nutrition, hygiene, stress, housing or weather conditions) can trigger calf scours5. When the dam is vaccinated before calving, she will provide colostrum that gives the calf an extra boost of protection against rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli.


Clostridial infections of sheep and cattle are caused by a group of 10 major bacteria that exist in soil, on fields, within buildings and even in the tissues and intestines of cattle and sheep. Some bacteria can survive in the environment for years, and triggers such as changes in feed and management or stress can cause them to multiply and shed toxins. The toxins spread rapidly and cause death, often within one day. Some examples of clostridial diseases are black leg, malignant oedema, black disease, tetanus, botulism and enterotoxaemia. Due to the rapid progress of the disease, it is difficult to treat it successfully. Clostridial infection can be prevented by vaccinating against the 10 key pathogens for cattle and sheep.

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)

IBR is caused by Bovine Herpes Virus-1 (BHV-1). This infectious respiratory disease of cattle makes cattle carriers once they are infected. Stress may reactivate IBR and the animal will start shedding the virus again, infecting other animals in the herd. Signs of IBR include fever and respiratory signs such as runny nose, discharge from the eyes and coughing. Infected animals can show a lower milk production and may experience abortion. Herds can be protected by vaccination and biosecurity measures to prevent introduction of the virus into the herd.


Lungworm infection can be a severe and often fatal disease, causing major damage and lesions on the lungs. Animals without immunity can become infected when grazing. During the next four weeks, the larvae will develop and excrete millions of fresh larvae onto the pasture, infecting other animals. A lungworm outbreak causes severe loss in milk yield, poor fertility and loss of animals. The vaccine is given orally to young stock for active immunization to reduce the clinical signs and lesions. Animals will gain lifetime immunity from contact with lungworm.


Ringworm in cattle is a fungal infection of the skin. The ring-shaped lesions on the skin are easy to identify and leave scarring on leather hides. Animals affected with ringworm show reduced growth and production losses, and the infection can be transmitted to people who work with infected cattle. Ringworm is not easy to control. Fungal spores are very resistant, can survive in the environment for months and are spread easily by infected animals. Vaccination protects animals against ringworm infections and reduces the impact of existing infections. Disinfection of housing and the environment is important to prevent the spread of ringworm.


Salmonellosis causes diarrhea and abortion in cattle, and some salmonella types are a serious threat to human health. Infected animals will remain a carrier for the disease and infect other animals and their environment. Controlling salmonella protects the herd and the people who handle the cattle. Carriers should be removed from the herd to prevent further spread. Biosecurity measures prevent salmonella from entering the herd. Vaccination protects animals against infection and may reduce contamination of the environment.


  1. Bach A., 2011, Associations between several aspects of heifer development and dairy cow survivability to second lactation, J. Dairy Sci. 94 :1052–1057.
  2. Weldegebriel, H.T., Gunn, G. J., Scott, A.W. 2009, Evaluation of producer and consumer benefits resulting from eradication of Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) in Scotland, United Kingdom. Prev. Vet. Med. 88, 49–56.
  3. USDA, 2007, Dairy, part 1: Reference of Dairy Cattle Health and Management Practices in the United states, USDA-APHISVS, CEAH, #N480.1007. National Animal Health Monitoring System, Fort Collins, CO.
  4. Bartels, C.J.M., Holzhauer, M., Jorritsma, R., Swart, W.A.J.M., Lam, T.J.G.M.,2010. Prevalence, prediction and risk factors of enteropathogens innormal and non-normal faeces of young Dutch dairy calves. Prev. Vet.Med. 93, 162–169.
  5. Lorenz, I., Fagan, J., More, S.J., 2011. Calf health from birth to weaning. II.Management of diarrhea in pre-weaned calves. Irish Vet. J. 64, 9.