Protect the Cowherd

Published on: 09:14AM Oct 03, 2011

As we begin to vaccinate calves, do not forget to vaccinate adult cattle. A healthy and well immunized calf starts with the vaccination of the cow.

The first benefit of vaccinating cows is preventing pregnancy abortions. Disease antigens, such as Leptospirosis and Campylobacter, are common reproductive components of vaccines. Giving these vaccines to our cows can increase the number of cows that become pregnant and carry a calf to term.

It is easy to correlate use of these vaccines with cow pregnancy rates. Often, they are given in conjunction with a "five-way" vaccine, a combination product that contains antigens for BVD (bovine viral diarrhea), IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis), parainfluenza 3 and BRSV (bovine respiratory syncytial virus). The BVD vaccine also helps prevent the cycle of persistently
infected BVD calves.

Be sure vaccines are given at the proper time. I prefer modified live vaccines to be given before breeding while the cow is open. Although some modified-live five-way vaccines are labeled for pregnant cows, it is still best to administer them before breeding for maximum protection during pregnancy. The cow’s immune system will also respond better to vaccines at this stage.

Improperly and/or misused vaccines can be ineffective or detrimental—causing abortions, etc.—so consult your veterinarian before designing your protocol.

Healthy colostrum. The forgotten benefit of vaccinating the cow is the priming of the colostrum. We continue to see more data proving the importance of a calf receiving the first mother’s milk. Colostrum provides the baby’s first immune response and impacts the calf’s growth throughout its life.

Vaccinating the cow increases the quality of the colostrum she will produce for the calf, decreases the prevalence of calf scours and BRD and leads to more pounds of calf to sell at the end of the growing season.

Adult animals are more capable of fighting off infections but may still expose others in the herd. By vaccinating the adults, we can reduce the amount of pathogens that young animals are exposed to.