U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Cuevas-Gómez et al. Irish Veterinary Journal (2021) 74:7 https://doi.org/10.1186/s13620-021-00187-1




Background: Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the main cause of mortality among 1-to-5 month old calves in Ireland, accounting for approximately one-third of deaths. Despite widespread use of clinical respiratory signs for diagnosing BRD, lung lesions are detected, using thoracic ultrasonography (TUS) or following post-mortem, in calves showing no clinical signs. This highlights the limitation of clinical respiratory signs as a method of detecting sub-clinical BRD. Using 53 purchased artificially-reared male dairy calves, the objectives of this study were to: (i) characterise the BRD incidence detected by clinical respiratory signs and/or TUS, (ii) investigate the association between clinical respiratory signs and lung lesions detected by TUS, and (iii) assess the effect of BRD on preweaning growth. Results: Clinical BRD (based on Wisconsin clinical respiratory score and/or rectal temperature > 39.6 ºC) was detected in 43 % and sonographic changes (lung lesions) were detected in 64 % of calves from purchase (23 (SD; 6.2) days of age) until weaning, 53 days post-arrival. Calves with clinical BRD were treated. Sixty-one per cent calves affected with clinical BRD had lung lesions 10.5 days (median) before detection of clinical signs. Moderate correlations (rsp 0.70; P < 0.05) were found between cough and severe lung lesions on arrival day, and between rectal temperature > 39.6 ºC and lung lesions ≥ 2 cm2 on day 7 (rsp 0.40; P < 0.05) post-arrival. Mean average daily live weight gain (ADG) of calves from purchase to weaning was 0.75 (SD; 0.10) kg; calves with or without clinical BRD did not differ in ADG (P > 0.05), whereas ADG of those with severe lung lesions (lung lobe completely consolidated or pulmonary emphysema) was 0.12 kg/d less (P < 0.05) than calves without lung lesions. Conclusions: Thoracic ultrasonography detected lung consolidation in calves that did not show signs of respiratory disease. The presence of severe lung lesions was associated with reduced pre-weaning growth. These findings emphasise the importance of using TUS in addition to clinical respiratory scoring of calves for an early and accurate detection of clinical and sub-clinical BRD.