The basics of developing healthy calves
As a veterinarian, you know spring is an essential time to get cattle health started off right. Ensuring cattle are healthy and protected against disease can be the foundation for the animals’ lifetime productivity and performance. Helping your clients evaluate their herds — from nutrition to vaccination — may uncover opportunities early on that can help improve overall herd health and performance, while also benefiting their bottom lines.
“One of the most important factors in calf development is nutrition,” said W. Mark Hilton, D.V.M., DABVP and Elanco technical consultant. “The ideal situation for a veterinarian is to work with a nutritionist that you know and trust so you can ensure you’re improving the client’s bottom line. When it comes to nutrition, if we start with a cow or heifer that is underconditioned, vaccines could be ineffective.”
During calving, Hilton notes that calves should be born and stand up quickly; nursing until they have a belly full of colostrum. The general rule is that crossbred calves should be standing approximately 30 minutes after birth and nursing 30 minutes later. Ingesting adequate colostrum is imperative to getting the calf off to the healthy start it needs.
Beginning with productive, healthy cows
When considering the profitability of a cow/calf herd, reproductive efficiency is one of the most important factors influencing success. Helping clients ensure they have the optimum number of cows calving early in the season is key.
“Research from South Dakota State University indicates that vaccine choice can have a larger impact on reproductive efficiency than was previously known,” said Hilton. “Compared to those given Bovi-Shield®, the study shows that cows receiving Vira Shield® had a 5% to 8% higher conception rate and had a higher percentage of cows calving in the first 21 days.2 Administering Vira Shield to cows during prebreeding is an excellent way to help ensure reproductive performance.”*
Healthy cows also lead to healthy calves, and minimizing scours in cows is one practice to help manage herd health. To minimize the impact of scours, it’s ideal to feed cows and heifers separately throughout the winter. Vaccinating cows with Scour Bos® 9 at preg-check and giving the booster four weeks prior to calving can also successfully help reduce the occurrence of scours. During calving season, Hilton recommends that producers allow heifers to calve in an environment separate from cows, as research shows the incidence of scours will be 1.7x higher when they calve within the same environment.1
Best health management practices for the calf
Approximately two to three months after birth, Hilton has a number of health management practices he recommends for you to work on with your clients in determining the best fit for their operations.
“Many research studies show that we can and should give cattle a modified-live vaccine (MLV) at this time for respiratory disease management. Calves develop a cell-mediated immune response to the viruses, and when we give the second dose at or near weaning, this vaccination does not add significantly to the stress of weaning because the calf has been primed earlier,” said Hilton. “Titanium® 5 is an example of a MLV that does not impact feed intake and results in little to no post-treatment side effects.”3**
Additionally, spring is the time to consider:
- Castration, if not done soon after birth
- A pour-on insecticide to decrease flies
- Additional vaccines relating to your specific needs, such as blackleg and pinkeye
- A suckling calf implant for additional gain
“Implants are one of the most underutilized technologies in calves,” said Hilton. “Component® E-C with Tylan® can provide an additional 17 to 20 pounds of gain in calves,4 so it’s another opportunity to work with your clients to help them improve their profitability.”
For more information on any of these practices or Elanco products that meet your client’s health management needs, reach out to your Elanco sales representative or technical consultant.
The label contains complete use information, including cautions and warnings. Always read, understand and follow label and use directions.
Implants are indicated for increased rate of weight gain; see product labels for full indication. Administer one dose in the ear subcutaneously according to label directions.
*As defined by early conception rate and calves born alive.
**As measured by body temperature, feed intake, injection-site reaction or white blood cell count.
1Schumann, F., H. Townsend and J. Naylor. 1990. “Risk Factors for Mortality from Diarhhea in Beef Cattle in Alberta.” Can J Vet Res 54: 366-372.
2Perry, G. et al. 2016. "Safety of vaccination with an inactivated or modified live viral reproductive vaccine when compared to sterile saline in beef cows." J Vet Sci Res, 1(3):000117.
3Terhaar, B. 2001. “Evaluating the effects of vaccine-induced stress on productivity.” Study No. TR-13. Published by Agri Laboratories Ltd.
4Selk, G. E. 1997. “Implants for suckling steer and heifer calves and potential replacement heifers.” In: proc. Impact of Implants on Performance and Carcass Value of Beef Cattle, Oklahoma Agric. Exp. Sta., Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater. P-957: 40-50.
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Elanco®, Component®, Scour Bos®, Titanium®, Tylan®, Vira Shield® and the diagonal bar are all owned or licensed by Eli Lilly and Company, its subsidiaries or affiliates.
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