The What’s and When’s of Spring Cow-Calf Vaccinations

Not long ago I read that there are 48 different vaccines made for various diseases in cattle. Not all of them are effective, yet they have met the USDA minimum standards for approval. It is important to remember that just because an approved vaccine is injected by no means results in an animal that is immune to that disease. A producer should be determining what disease threats are of most concern to his/her operation and seek an effective vaccine that can help manage the risk. As we go through the calving season and look toward the summer season, we should think about what I consider would be priority vaccines and some that may be more optional.

Vaccine advice
We advise administering scour vaccines to heifers and cows pre-calving. There are three companies that have most of the market share. Some vaccines are aqueous-based and have a shorter duration of effectiveness. Consult your veterinarian for which one is best for your situation. Be sure to follow label directions as closely as possible for maximum benefit. Also, be aware that first-calf heifers require two doses  spaced anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks apart. A single dose will not yield benefit in cattle not previously vaccinated according to the label.

Generally, we do not think baby calves need very many vaccines if they get a proper dose of colostrum. Many clients give a C&D clostridium toxoid to prevent bloating and bellyache in young calves. Some folks also give an intranasal modified live virus vaccine to help prevent  pneumonia. There are two of those products on the market and each has its advantages.

When anticipating breeding and turn out to grass we recommend a pre-breeding vaccine for cows and heifers. Your vaccine should include IBR, BVD, Vibrio (Campylobacter), as well as five strains of Lepto to prevent infectious abortions.  If you use a modified live vaccine, which I prefer, be sure you complete the vaccination at least 28 days before breeding. The state veterinarian also continues to recommend anthrax vaccination for all cattle going to grass, and I agree. The single most important vaccination for calves going to grass is a 7-way clostridium that protects against black leg and several other related diseases. They also need a booster of intranasal modified live vaccine to extend immunity for viral pneumonia through summer. Many of our clients also give a bacterin for bacterial pneumonia. Consult your veterinarian on  specific products. As mentioned earlier, if your cows are receiving anthrax vaccine, calves should also get it at the time they are turned out to grass.

One other vaccine that some of our clients also give at turn out to grass is a pinkeye bacterin. The effectiveness of these products seems to be variable. If you use one and feel it works, do not change it.