by Travis Van Anne, DVM, Professional Services Veterinarian, Beef, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.
Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) is one of those infectious respiratory and reproductive diseases cattlemen need to actively monitor and employ prevention methods in order to keep their cow herd healthy and profitable.
IBR is caused by Bovine Herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1). It is characterized by an acute inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. Common signs of the disease include fever, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, abortions, and encephalitis. In mother cows, the disease can cause abortion, drop in milk production and infertility.1
It’s critical to understand reproductive diseases in beef cattle. Planning a good defense is always a good offense. Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) offers a reproductive vaccine created specifically to protect pregnant animals against the effects of reproductive pathogens, such as IBR and Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV).
Think of IBR, like chicken pox in humans–that virus is still in you. At some point it could express itself as shingles. A very similar thing happens in cattle. The herpes virus is difficult to protect against because it is very stable and creative in the ways it evades the immune system. Sometimes, carrier animals shed during times of stress and create an overwhelming challenge (to the herd) and expose the virus to an unprotected (non-vaccinated) animal. Often times shedding occurs at calving because the animal becomes stressed.
It can take time for the replication of the virus to reach levels where it’s going to cause problems. That’s why it’s important to vaccinate cattle 30 days prior to breeding to protect the animal against viremia during pregnancy or post calving. Viremia is when an invading pathogen (virus) comes in contact with an animal and replicates enough to create a high population in the blood stream. In a well-managed, immune-competent, vaccinated animal, often, the normal body defenses block the virus from this expanded replication and distribution in the blood.
If the cow is not vaccinated or has not developed protection through natural exposure, the viremia can allow the pathogen to infect tissues, organs or even the unborn fetus. If a cow happens to be pregnant, and the pathogen gets to a high enough level, then it has a chance to go to the fetus and harm it.
You might consider looking to earlier, more uniform calving dates—possibly incorporating a synchronization program—to target a 65-day calving window to limit pathogen exposure and sell more pounds. Cows/heifers that calve early have older, heavier calves at branding and at weaning. Typically, a 60-day old calf will have a better chance of responding to a vaccine than a <30-day old calf. The immune system is not very developed at birth and takes time to develop and respond to vaccines. B and T cell populations are in greater number and are more likely to allow for a more complete, longer lasting, immune response in an older calf when compared to a newborn.
Depending on the level and quality of colostrum consumed, the first vaccine dose you give to a calf is often a priming dose for the immune system. For example, if you calve in February, it’s typical to get summer pneumonia around August or September for many operations in the Northern Plains. This is due to the waning protection of colostrum, extreme temperature changes and dry weather (dust) that often occurs during this time of year. It is recommended to time the second shot of MLV vaccine three weeks in front of the historical date your cattle operation typically begins experiencing respiratory issues. This is unique to each ranch depending on management conditions and environment.
Often, the second dose of MLV vaccine given during the pre-weaning stage (3-4 weeks prior to shipping/weaning) serves as more of a protective dose than when the first vaccine is given. There is a layered protection that vaccines offer, the first dose given at branding sets them up for the next more protective dose later in life. This concept is not new, and that is why most vaccine labels require two doses of MLV vaccine prior to leaving the ranch.
There are four key periods in which it’s important to give an MLV vaccine to your animals that are intended to become cows: branding/turn-out (~60 day old calves), pre-weaning (~150) day-old calves, weaning (~220) day-old calves, and pre-breeding or yearling cattle. Cows should receive a dose of a reproductive vaccine, like Express® FP, 30 days prior to breeding to match vaccination with possible disease challenges. This may reduce the risk if the animals were to come in contact with reproductive pathogens listed on the label, especially during the first few months of pregnancy.
Proper vaccine handling and usage
Proper handling and usage of the vaccine is almost as important as what is inside the packaging. It’s important to use products correctly—transport them properly, keep them cool, out of the sunlight and use them within an hour of being mixed. You can also label your vaccination guns to prevent any accidental mixing of vaccinations. If you use seven-way in an auto-gun today and use modified-live in it tomorrow without proper cleaning, you may have just inactivated your modified-live virus vaccine, and ruined the product’s integrity and protective properties. All vaccination guns require proper cleaning and storage after use. Simple acts, like drawing up boiling water into the syringes, can go a long way in keeping up gun integrity.
Protection from a vaccination is not instantaneous. A functional immune system, takes about two to three weeks to kick in and do the good work that it needs to do to protect from pathogens. Remember, this vaccine is likely not going to change your pregnancy rates from 95 to 97 percent. But, what it could do is help maintain those pregnancies to term and create more calves/pounds sold. Reproductive efficiency is what makes you money in the cattle business.
Express is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. ©2016 Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.
1 Kahrs RF. Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, from Current topics in veterinary medicine and animal science, Diseases of cattle in the tropics. Springer, Netherlands, 1981;197–205.
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