Pfizer offers pneumonia control strategy for calves

Seasonal temperature swings can create added stress for calves moving from individual to group housing this winter. The stresses of social adjustments, nutritional changes and increased pathogen exposure can set calves up for clinical pneumonia — the cause of almost half of all deaths in weaned heifers.

Doug Braun, DVM, Pfizer Animal Health Dairy Veterinary Operations, recommends producers who consistently see pneumonia in heifers to consider a control strategy for high-risk times.

“Effectiveness of treatment depends partly on how early in the disease cycle it begins,” Dr. Braun explains. “The most effective strategy is to get an antimicrobial on board before disease breaks. If producers are consistently seeing clinical signs of respiratory disease, such as coughing, elevated temperatures or mucus discharge shortly after weaning, they may want to look more closely at younger calves to catch signs of disease earlier.”

Dr. Braun cautions producers against relying solely on feed intake as an indicator of disease. The traditional 20 percent protein, 20 percent fat milk replacer may not provide adequate nutrition for fast-growing heifers, so even sick calves may continue to eat grain because they are hungry. Instead, producers should use a more comprehensive assessment to spot early signs of pneumonia, such as a calf respiratory scoring chart (available at

Dr. Braun advises producers who see consistent respiratory disease in post-weaned heifers to identify causative agents and select an appropriate treatment. Diagnostic tools are available from many state veterinary hospitals that use nasal swabs or a bronchoalveolar lavage to identify disease-causing agents. Once the pathogen is identified, the herd veterinarian can select an effective course of treatment.

“If we find that bacteria are causing respiratory disease, we can select an anti-infective that provides a full course of therapy,” Dr. Braun says. “Producers should work with their veterinarian to determine appropriate treatment for the disease agent heifers are facing. Selecting an injectable antibiotic will allow us to control both the dose and duration of treatment, improving the odds of success.”

 “The key is to get out in front of respiratory disease before it starts affecting heifer growth,” Dr. Braun says. “Producers who strategically utilize an injectable antibiotic in high risk calves can gain greater control over pneumonia and reduce its impact on growth and performance.”

One product that is effective against calfhood pneumonia is Draxxin (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution. Dr. Braun points out that Draxxin offers a full course of therapy in a single dose, eliminating the need to catch and re-treat heifers, saving on labor and reducing animal stress.

Important Safety Information: Do not use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Do not use in calves to be processed for veal. A pre-slaughter withdrawal time has not been determined for pre-ruminating calves.  Draxxin has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days.

For more information about how Pfizer Animal Health works to ensure a safe, sustainable global food supply from healthy livestock and poultry; or helps companion animals and horses to live longer, healthier lives, visit