Vaccination is one of the most important methods for preventing infections and disease in a cattle herd. While the type of vaccine administered is a central part of herd health, proper timing of vaccinations is also significant.
“Vaccinating calves at 1 to 4 months of age is really the perfect time, especially for costly diseases like bovine respiratory disease (BRD),” said Dr. Peggy Thompson, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim (BI). “Respiratory viruses can suppress the calf’s immune system, making it more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.”
Dr. Thompson added that waiting to vaccinate calves until weaning could be costly. “Waiting until weaning could leave calves unprotected during the summer months, when they are susceptible to summer pneumonia, so it’s important to vaccinate early to provide calves with protection.”
Studies have shown that calves impacted with respiratory disease prior to weaning are, on average, 36 pounds lighter at weaning than their herd mates.1,2 “With today’s cattle prices, it’s important for producers to maximize gain in order to sell heavier calves,” said Dr. Thompson.
Vaccinating early can also help to reduce calf stress. “Calves are challenged with many stressors during weaning including castration, transportation, disease challenges, commingling, dietary changes and more,” explained Dr. Thompson. “Adding vaccination at this time can increase stress levels in calves.” She recommends to focus on giving vaccines at low-stress times, like during spring turnout when calves go back out to pasture with their mothers. This will give their immune system the opportunity to work at optimum levels.
Research studies have demonstrated that calves as young as 5 to 6 weeks of age can be effectively immunized against bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV).3 “BVDV Type 1b is the most prevalent strain in the United States, so make sure the vaccine you choose offers solid protection against it.”4
Dr. Thompson recommends cattle producers always read and follow label directions, and work closely with their local veterinarian before vaccinating to formulate a sound herd health program that fits their operation, environmental conditions and management needs.
1 Snowder GD, Van Vleck LD, Cundiff LV, Bennett GL. Influence of breed, heterozygosity and disease incidence on estimates of variance components of respiratory disease in preweaned beef calves. J Animal Sci 2005;83(6):1247–1261.
2 Wittum TE and Perino LJ. Passive immune status at postpartum hour 24 and long-term health and performance of calves. Am J Vet Res 1995;56(9):1149–1154. 1
3 Zimmerman AD, Buterbaugh RE, Schnackel JA, Chase CC. Efficacy of a modified-live virus vaccine administered to calves with maternal antibodies and challenged seven months later with a virulent bovine viral diarrhea Type 2 virus. Bovine Pract 2009;43(1):35–43.
4 Fulton RW, Ridpath JF, Saliki JT, et al. Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) 1b: predominant BVDV subtype in calves with respiratory disease. Can J Vet Res 2002;66(3):181–190.
©2017 Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.
About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health
In January 2017, Merial became part of the Boehringer Ingelheim group. As the second largest animal health business in the world, Boehringer Ingelheim is committed to making the industry even better at improving animal health. With more than 10,000 employees worldwide, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health has products available in more than 150 markets and a global presence in 99 countries. For more information about Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, click here.