Timed right, vaccinations maximize protection in the face of new challenges


During the post-weaning stage of a dairy heifer calf’s life, it’s critical to minimize health problems in order to maximize growth and performance. The correct timing of vaccinations is an important step to accomplish that.

Calves receive passive immunity from the cow’s colostrum (first milk) shortly after birth and the onset of active immunity in the weeks that follow. However, there is a window of susceptibility when a calf’s immunity from passive transfer drops below a safe level for many disease challenges. 

Calves should be vaccinated at a point early enough so that active immunity can be stimulated before maternal antibodies have declined too far. Consider that the acquired immunity will take time to develop:  7 to 14 days after injection. Therefore, calves should be vaccinated 7 to 14 days prior to weaning so that acquired immunity has developed by the time they are grouped with other calves. The weaning period is a high-risk time period for dairy calves to develop Bovine Respiratory Disease, and they need the extra protection as their maternal antibody levels decline.

Disease challenges

Calves are faced with a number of respiratory disease-associated agents (pathogens) in the early post-weaning stage, including Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) Types 1 and 2, Parainfluenza-3 virus (PI3), and Mannheimia haemolytica. As you work with your veterinarian to develop vaccine protocols, be sure to account for these common pathogens.

The level of other bacterial pathogens present will vary from farm to farm, based on management and environmental factors. The biggest bacterial challenge at this stage is from Mannhaemia haemolytica. A vaccine with a leukotoxoid is needed to develop antibodies against leukotoxin produced by the bacteria. Presponse® SQ from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. is one such vaccine.

It’s essential to consider timing and the disease pathogens present when choosing a vaccine protocol during the challenging post-weaning stage of a calf’s life.


Presponse is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.