September 19, 2013

3 Min Read
Reducing Herd Losses To Blackleg

In many cases, death is the first sign of clostridial diseases to appear; by the time the disease can be identified, it’s often too late. Most cow/calf producers are familiar with blackleg, but it is just one of several clostridial diseases that can cause significant losses for beef producers. Clostridial diseases are highly pathogenic and can affect cattle quickly. It’s important to vaccinate to keep cows and calves safe from these hard-to-control spores.

Clostridia are anaerobic spores, which allow the bacteria to live in the soil for long periods of time. There are two ways for cattle to contract clostridial disease: ingestion of the spores, or through open wounds that allow the spores to enter.

Clostridial diseases that challenge the herd

Clostridium chauvoei, more commonly known as blackleg, is the clostridial disease that many beef producers encounter. Other clostridial species include enterotoxemia (Cl. perfringens Types A, B, C and D), tetanus (Cl. tetani) and malignant edema (Cl. septicum and Cl. sordellii).

Producers in the Northern Plains face significant threats from blackleg and enterotoxemia. According to Dr. Jerry Woodruff, Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., all ages and classes of cattle are vulnerable to these diseases, but young animals are the most vulnerable.

“Young animals, especially those that have not been vaccinated, are uniquely vulnerable to threats from clostridial diseases,” he says. “Getting the vaccination program started just after birth is a great way to protect the health of the calf, and of the rest of the herd.”

Dr. Woodruff says that the best way to stop clostridial diseases is to protect the animal before infection sets in. “Prevention of clostridial disease is critical because once clinical signs appear, treatment isn’t always effective,” he says.  “Clostridial diseases are highly pathogenic; to prevent an outbreak, I recommend vaccinating calves early — before they go to grass.”

Fight back with a sound vaccination program

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. offers three clostridial vaccine lines to fit producer needs. Alpha-7® is the only 2 mL single-dose, seven-way clostridial vaccine on the market for blackleg. Alpha-CD™ is a one-dose vaccine that aids in protection to help reduce enterotoxemia.

The Caliber® vaccine line requires two 2 mL doses. The Bar-Vac® family includes more traditional clostridial vaccines that requires a 5 mL dose, plus a booster three to four weeks after initial vaccination, but it offers combinations to address specific problems.

“In the Northern Plains, it has become common to vaccinate calves with the 7-way vaccine at birth or shortly thereafter,” Dr. Woodruff says. “Since producers are handling calves a lot at this time, it makes sense to vaccinate at those touch points.”

In addition to opportunities to vaccinate at birth, Dr. Woodruff notes that producers should also consider vaccinating for blackleg at branding time or turnout.

Dr. Woodruff recommends that beef producers work with their herd veterinarian to identify the clostridial species most common in their region. He says it is important to select a clostridial vaccine that fits their management program and the disease challenges for the area.

“If you lose one calf in today’s market, you could have paid for a lot of clostridial vaccine,” Dr. Woodruff says. “Prevention of clostridial disease through vaccination is the key to success.”

For more information on the complete line of clostridial vaccines available from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., please visit

Alpha-7, Bar-Vac and Caliber are registered trademarks of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. ©2013 Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.


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