Mycoplasma Pneumonia in Beef Cattle: A Unique Challenge in Respiratory Diseases

By Trish Svoboda

Just as humans can, beef cattle are also susceptible to respiratory diseases that can begin as a viral infection and progress to bacterial pneumonia, according to specialists from the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, as discussed in a recent episode of the Cattle Chat podcast. The conversation primarily revolved around mycoplasma pneumonia, a condition that might necessitate a distinct treatment approach compared to other respiratory diseases, as stated by the veterinarians from K-State.

“Mycoplasma pneumonia is atypical because it is a smaller bacterium that doesn’t have a cell wall and it is more contagious than some of the other respiratory illnesses,” said K-State veterinarian Brad White.

K-State veterinarian Brian Lubbers added: “Because it is an atypical bacterium, some of the antibiotics that we would use to treat bovine respiratory disease just simply won’t work against mycoplasma.”

According to the veterinarians, the onset of this type of pneumonia is longer than other types of respiratory illnesses. They said it can take 30-40 days to appear in the herd, and can also lead to other syndromes, such as an ear or joint infection.

“In a lot of cases the calf starts with a respiratory infection and then weeks or months later they have swollen knee joints or even a head tilt, which are signs that they may be experiencing mycoplasma infections,” Lubbers says.

If cattle farmers suspect mycoplasma infections within their livestock, White and Lubbers recommend consulting with a local veterinarian for advice.

The diagnostic procedure for this particular bacterium is unique and may not always be detected in a standard bacterial culture. Therefore, it’s crucial to collaborate with the veterinarian to ensure an accurate diagnosis and establish the appropriate treatment plan.

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