Vet's Perspective

Nov 2, 2012
by WLJ

Vaccinating your herd

As the weather changes and the season turns, routine healthcare and herd management makes reappearance. Vaccinations should play a key part in managing animals that are moved into a herd, are pre-calving, and are being processed in other similar scenarios (such as during pregnancy evaluations, calf processing or deworming). The purpose of vaccines is to keep an adequate level of resistance to disease by maintaining antibodies in the circulatory system. The amount of antibody in the bloodstream must be high enough to resist a disease challenge for each animal. Cattle must be healthy in order to reach their full performance potential! Before you get started, a few tips on protocols and vaccine management may help keep the process organized and efficient.

First and foremost, follow vaccine guidelines as directed by product labels and your veterinarian. Vaccines should be stored in the refrigerator and placed on icepacks if being transported for longer than 20 minutes. Make sure to check the label for an expiration date, and do not use vaccines that have passed this time. Vaccines may be administered in several routes, such as intramuscular or subcutaneous injections, as well as intra-nasal. Some vaccines are only to be administered by a licensed veterinarian, while some types are also required to have documentation in order for animals to be transported across state lines.

There are several formulations of vaccines produced today. One must remember that vaccines are best administered when maternal antibodies (which should be present if the calf has been given sufficient colostrum) are beginning to decrease in the animal. The length of time a vaccine remains effective is dependent on the resistance and immune system capability of the animal, as well as the quantity and quality of vaccine administered. For the most part, annual vaccinations are recommended.

The following list summarizes basic formulations you may encounter.

Replicating modified-live: These vaccines reproduce within the animal’s body before an increased resistance level is present. Usually only one dose is needed if administered properly and resistance is achieved.

Non-replicating modified-live: Although these vaccines contain live agents, they do not replicate within the animal’s body, and thus will usually require a second ‘booster’ dose. The first dose will act as a trigger to the body’s natural immune response memory while the second dose (21 days after the initial dose) stimulates production of antibodies used in the resistance mechanism.

Inactivated non-replicating: These vaccines have been inactivated during the manufacturing process and thus do not replicate within the animals’ bodies; they also typically require two doses for full effect. Inactivated vaccines usually require an annual booster dose to stimulate immunity as well.

Intra-Nasal: This formulation of vaccine replicates specifically in the epithelial cells of the upper respiratory tract and stimulates local resistance to disease. This creates a short-lived immune response—so a booster dose with a modified-live or inactivated vaccine will enhance a longterm effect.

The following is a list of types of vaccines and their purposes in health management for your herd.

Brucellosis (RB51 or Bang’s) – This vaccine has state requirements for administration, but in most cases it must be given to heifers between 4 and 11 months of age. Brucellosis is a disease with zoonotic potential and the vaccine must be given by an accredited veterinarian only!

Bovine Viral Diarrhea – A disease that can lead to respiratory, reproductive, and intestinal consequences.

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and Parainfluenza – All are diseases that can cause ‘coldlike’ symptoms, leading to severe respiratory distress if secondary bacterial infections take over the untreated animal.

Leptospirosis – A reproductive disease resulting in abortions and reproductive tract disease, and recommended for heifers and cows two to three months before breeding.

Clostridium (Blackleg 7-way) – Protection against the several types of Clostridial bacteria that can develop into severe muscle and necrotic lesions in animals of all ages.

Vibriosis and Trichomoniasis – Vaccination against these bacteria is recommended one to two months before breeding as preventative of reproductive disease such as abortion and uterine infertility.

E. coli, Clostridium, and Rota/CoronaVirus – Approximately 30 days before calving, heifers and cows should be protected against these bacterial infections; the vaccine also increase antibodies that are delivered to calves in the first colostrums—at the neonates’ must susceptible time period.

Pinkeye – Vaccination is recommended in late spring for animals of all ages to protect against bacterial infections secondary to initial irritants, such as wind, trauma, foreign objects and sandy soil.

Calves should be getting their first immunizations between 4 to 8 months of age, depending on time of processing and movement of groups of animals. Vaccination before 4 months of age may result in neutralization of the vaccine (thus ineffectiveness) due to the presence of circulating maternal antibodies. Often, vaccination is teamed up with other procedures such as castrating, tagging, deworming and dehorning.

Other variants for herd recommendations may vary according to geographic location and assumed risk of disease. Herd health management plans are vital to a profitable operation. Investment in vaccination may seem costly and unnecessary, but when a loss occurs, the cost of treatment or fatalities can quickly rise over initial management considerations. Consult your local veterinarian for assistance in establishing protocols to match your needs throughout the year. — Dr. Genevieve Grammer [Dr. Genevieve Grammer is a mixed-species veterinarian practicing in eastern Colorado. Please direct correspondence to drgigi19@].