Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lungs that can affect sheep, goats and cattle in varying severities. It is usually caused by an interplay of multiple factors, such as a bacterial and/or viral pathogen, environmental conditions, lung worm infestations and stress. In sheep, pneumonia is commonly seen in weaners during summer, hence the term ‘summer pneumonia’.

The risk of developing the condition is increased due to the combination of an impaired immune system (caused by the stress of weaning, stock mixing, change of diet etc.) and dry, dusty conditions that irritate the lungs and allow pathogens to establish and cause disease. The impacts on production can range from a reduction in liveweight gain to increased lamb mortalities. There will also be losses at the abattoir due to lung condemnations and possible carcass trimming.


Some preventative measures include the following;

  • Managing stress in sheep is vital, although difficult when stress is due to climate conditions. Ensure you are prioritising stress reduction during transport and handling.
  • Reducing dust through means such as;
    • effective pasture management and wind breaks
    • mustering slowly and during the cooler parts of the day
    • hosing down yards (this may not be feasible in times of limited water supply)
    • avoid feeding dusty feed.
  • Management of lungworm and intestinal worms.
  • Biosecurity considerations are important – be sure to isolate new sheep as they could be carriers for pathogens.
  • Avoid lifting a sheep’s head too high when drenching to avoid aspiration pneumonia.
  • There are currently no commercially available vaccines for pneumonia in sheep.


In cattle, pneumonia is commonly associated with Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), which is particularly common on feedlots and in calves and weaners in extensive production systems. While mortalities can occur in severely affected stock, production losses in the form or reduced feed conversion efficiency and reductions in daily weight gain are common.

Some preventative measures include the following;

  • Stress management and prevention, particularly during the first few weeks of cattle being on a feedlot.
  • Familiarising young stock with the conditions of a feedlot (yard weaning).
  • Vaccination against respiratory Pathogens.
  • Monitor animal health and behaviour closely. Fever, cloudy nasal discharge, shallow breathing and coughing are some common clinical signs of BVD.

Data on pneumonia and pleurisy in sheep are collected as part of the National Sheep Health Monitoring Project, and is also available to producers and processors via ISC’s Livestock Data Link. A pilot study conducted by Joan Lloyd Consulting sampled sheep lungs from three Australian abattoirs to determine the causative pathogens involved in pneumonia, view details here: Pneumonia in Sheep and Goats — Joan Lloyd Consulting Pty Ltd.