Because cattle are bred to give birth in the spring, late May or June is usually the time to vaccinate livestock, says David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Livestock get their immunity from their mothers’ milk at birth. But, by the time they are 2 to 4 months old, they begin to establish their own immune system.
Vaccines cost only $3 to $10 per calf. With prices for calves hovering around $2 per pound, even a pound of gain lost to a preventable disease would cover the cost of the vaccine. The price of a single animal lost to a preventable disease would pay for the vaccination program for an entire herd in most cases, Fernandez reminds ranchers.
There are two types of vaccines – killed and modified live. Killed vaccines are made from dead microbes or their parts. Modified live vaccines are made from weakened microbes that cannot cause disease. A primary reason vaccines fail is that producers forget they are using a live product, says Fernandez. Modified live vaccines must be kept cool and out of direct sunlight as ultraviolet radiation from the sun kills bacteria.
Vaccinate calves before weaning for blackleg (using either a 7-way or 8-way vaccine), IBR-BVD-PI3 and leptospirosis. Most producers also vaccinate their heifers for brucellosis between 4 and 12 months of age. Some producers may want to vaccinate against such respiratory diseases as bovine respiratory syncytial virus, pasturella or Haemophilus somnus.
Work with your veterinarian to develop a plan for other diseases if you have problems specific to your herd.
Source: University of Arkansas Extension
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