In my role as a Dairy Technical Services veterinarian, I spend considerable time troubleshooting health challenges on dairies and heifer-growing operations. I’ve seen a common challenge: gaps in vaccination programs. These gaps occur for many reasons, from forgetting to vaccinate a group to using the right vaccine the wrong way to overlooking the critical step of revaccination.
It’s important for veterinarians and producers to work together to close those gaps. An effective vaccination program spans key growth stages, from newborn calves to prefresh heifers, to help minimize disease risk and maximize lifetime productivity potential.
Over the years, I’ve developed some guidelines to help producers and growers work with their veterinarian to consider the big picture when reviewing vaccination programs. These guidelines include:
1) Open the lines of communication with your veterinarian.
I encourage regular conversations with veterinarians, the ultimate experts on animal health issues, especially for your cattle. Use the time to:
2) Understand the importance of vaccinations and the diseases you need to vaccinate for at each life stage.
Heifers are exposed to disease-causing pathogens throughout each growth stage, so we need to prepare them. Work with your veterinarian to better understand potential health challenges at each life stage, which vaccines are necessary and why.
Pre-weaned and post-weaned calves
Disease management is vital to overall Calf Wellness and helping them achieve their lifetime potential. Talk with your veterinarian about the benefits of delivering INFORCE 3® at birth to help stimulate immunity where pathogens attack first — the upper airways. As a calf’s immune system develops, vaccination will help trigger a quick immune response and help prime the immune system for a memory response to subsequent disease challenges.
Don’t forget that respiratory diseases continue to be a health challenge in post-weaned heifers. Therefore, a second dose of INFORCE 3 delivered at weaning is recommended.
Prebreeding heifers and breeding-age heifers
Consider a reproductive vaccination program that includes BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP® 5 L5 HB to help provide protection where it matters most — the reproductive tract. Look for a viral combination vaccine that prevents Lepto hardjo-bovis infections in the kidney, shedding in the urine and establishment in the reproductive tract.
Prefresh immunity can be compromised when heifers start preparing for freshening and colostrum production for their calves. This change, coupled with the demands of lactation, weakens their ability to respond to disease exposure.
Consider vaccinating prefresh or fresh heifers to help reduce the risk of respiratory infections. INFORCE 3 can help trigger a quick immune response to help prime the immune system.
Prefresh heifers also are at higher risk of salmonellosis. Controlling Salmonella can help prevent infection of the rest of the herd. Consider a Salmonella vaccine with SRP® technology to help control disease and fecal shedding of Salmonella Newport.
Vaccinating against scours is important for adequate antibody transfer into the colostrum. Vaccinate healthy pregnant heifers to help them develop protective antibodies to bolster colostrum, which passes disease-fighting antibodies to calves.
3) Understand the importance of duration of immunity (DOI).
The DOI is the minimum duration of time you can expect a vaccine to help protect your cattle. Each antigen in the vaccine can have different DOI claims, and many vaccines may not have a demonstrated DOI on the label at all. The statement “vaccinate annually” does not indicate the DOI. Only the default provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) vaccine approval can provide the DOI information. In general, you should select vaccines with longer demonstrated protection to help ensure your cattle are protected during critical exposure periods when disease resistance is low and disease challenge is high.
4) Maintain bulletproof records.
There should be no holes in your health records. For every single vaccination, include animal ID, date of birth, vaccination type, date of administration, dosage and reactions, if any. Be sure to share these records not only with your veterinarian but also with your employees. It’s especially important for growers and their customers to share health and vaccination records with each other and herd veterinarians for both the home farm and the grower.
Work closely with your veterinarian. Consider these tips during your conversations. By establishing a solid, lifelong vaccination program, you can help ensure health and wellness at each life stage.