Respiratory pathogens in veal calves: Inventory of circulating pathogens

A.F.G. Antonis, M. Swanenburg, H.J. Wisselink, B. Smid, E.G.M. van Klink*, T.J. Hagenaars

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In the veal industry in The Netherlands, each year around 1.2 million “white” veal calves are produced on around 1100 farms. Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) causes serious health issues in these calves, also resulting in high usage of antimicrobials. To reduce antimicrobial usage, a more targeted treatment regime is needed, for which it is necessary to identify the causative agent. This study aimed at determining associations between pathogens and clinical disease, between prevalence of pathogens and BRD outbreaks, and BRD and performance. A cohort study was conducted involving ten veal farms, in which calf respiratory health was evaluated for the first 12 weeks. Whenever there was an outbreak of BRD, as determined by the farm veterinary surgeon, samples were taken from diseased and control calves through broncho-alveolar lavage. From these samples a broad spectrum of micro-organisms were isolated. Performance data were also collected. A total of 23 outbreaks happened during the 12 week study period, mostly in the first six weeks. BRD associated pathogens found were: BHV1, BPI3V, BRSV, BVDV, Pasteurella multocida, Mannheimia haemolytica, Trueperella pyogenes, Histophilus somni, Mycoplasma bovis, Mycoplasma bovirhinis and Mycoplasma dispar. For most BRD associated pathogens, there was no clear association between presence or prevalence of the micro-organisms and clinical issues. Only T. pyogenes (7.4% in healthy, 14.6% in diseased calves, p 0.013), M. bovis (37.6% and 63.2% respectively, p 0.001) and BVDV (9.9% and 16.9% respectively, p 0.03) were found more often in diseased animals. BPI3V was found in a few early outbreaks, which might suggest involvement in early outbreaks. It appears to be difficult to associate specific pathogens to outbreaks at the species level. BRD is the major reason for treatment with antimicrobials. More specific knowledge about the association between pathogens and health/disease could help to reduce antimicrobial use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109571
JournalVeterinary Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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