By Scott Nordstrom, D.V.M., Merck Animal Health
Maximize your herd’s health of your herd and provide the most complete protection against respiratory, reproductive, clostridial and other diseases.
Advancements in vaccine technology have changed the course of modern agriculture. Our first cattle vaccines were developed in the late 1880s to protect against blackleg. Today, there are more than 50 different disease-preventing antigens approved for use in cattle vaccines, and the U.S. dairy herd is healthier and better protected from diseases than ever before.
To maximize the health of your herd and to provide the most complete protection against respiratory, reproductive, clostridial and other diseases, consider the following information about vaccines and health management practices.
1. Choose vaccines backed by product research and a reputable manufacturer.
2. Work with your veterinarian to select the appropriate disease antigens and develop vaccine protocols.
3. Train employees on vaccine protocols and document vaccine administration.
4. Follow storage and handling guidelines on the product label.
5. Understand and manage endotoxins in gram negative bacterial vaccines.
6. Feed newborn calves a gallon of colostrum as soon as possible after birth, and another gallon 12 hours later.
7. Work with your nutritionist to ensure proper calf nutrition.
8. Vaccinate calves two to four weeks prior to challenge.
9. Revaccinate calves for endemic diseases after 4 to 6 months of age.
10. Minimize stress and do not vaccinate during weaning or transition.
11. Control parasites by deworming and treating coccidia.
12. Review all calf-management practices to identify any risk factors that would negatively impact the success of your vaccination program.
To ensure that your herd is getting the most complete protection, discuss the following viruses, bacteria and diseases with your veterinarian and develop vaccination protocols that are ideal for your operation.
• Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV)
• Bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) Types 1 and 2
• Clostridial infections
• E. coli
• Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR)
• Mannheimia haemolytica
• Parainfluenza (PI3)
• Pasteurella multocida
The use of multiple gram negative vaccines can create a significant health risk, known as “endotoxic stacking of vaccines.” To protect your cattle from endotoxic overload or stacking, there are several rules of thumb to follow.
• Properly store vaccines – never freeze or overheat
• Use new, clean needles (subcutaneous administration causes the least reaction)
• Limit gram negative vaccines to two at a time
• Wait one week after initial administration if more gram negative vaccines are necessary
• Work with your veterinarian to better understand and manage vaccine endotoxins
Even with the best vaccine program in place, good immunity can be compromised by poor management practices. An immune system in a calf or cow can be overwhelmed by extraordinary challenge.
• If milk bottles are not cleaned properly and salmonella bacterial counts build in the environment, no vaccine or colostral immunity will withstand the challenge.
• If a farm has numerous persistently infected calves that are shedding the BVD virus to others in the herd, these calves will have difficulty responding adequately to the virus.
• Regularly review and evaluate your management protocols, records and employees for signs that your vaccination program may be at risk.
Every year we benefit from new technology and new information to make our vaccination programs even better. In a world that wants assurance that we are caring for animals and producing milk responsibly, it’s important we are committed to the best practices in vaccine management. This commitment not only will benefit the health and productivity of your animals, but the image of the dairy industry as a whole.