Calf Care Checklist: 5 Ways to Protect Vaccine Quality

Posted on January 28, 2020 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Dr. Jenn Rowntree, Vita Plus calf and heifer specialist
Vaccines are an important part of any calf raising program, however, we may not be handling them correctly to get the most out of them.  Here are five ways to protect vaccine quality.

1.  Maintain vaccination, treatment and health records.
Health events, including any treatments and diagnostic information, should be evaluated on a regular basis with your veterinarian.  This will provide valuable insight into your herd’s health status and help your veterinarian make vaccination recommendations tailored to your farm.  Those recommendations can include timing vaccines to help prevent diseases at a specific risk period, introducing new vaccines, or removing ones that may not be necessary for your herd.

2.  An immune response is necessary following the administration of any vaccine.
This response can be suppressed or negated if an animal is stressed and/or ill.  Consider implementing low-stress handling for cattle of all ages and adopt management strategies that spread out procedures to different times.  For example, weaning and moving calves in the same day, along with administering vaccinations and/or dehorning/castrating should not be completed on the same day.  A positive alternative is a step-down weaning process where vaccines can be administered.  Dehorning/castration should be done as early as possible, before 3 weeks of age.

3.  Vaccines need time for the body to respond.
Young calves (less than 3 weeks of age) are better able to respond to intranasal or oral vaccines than parenteral (injectable) vaccines because it takes time for their immune systems to produce systemic antibodies to injectable vaccines.  As cattle age, their ability to develop antibodies improves and the amount of time it takes to produce antibodies decreases.  In general, it is best to administer vaccines at least seven days prior to any known risk period.  Work with your veterinarian to determine the most advantageous time to administer vaccines, as this will vary depending on vaccine type.

4.  Handle vaccines with care!  
Never store vaccines in the refrigerator door – the temperature varies too widely.  When working cattle, keep vaccines in an insulated cooler and out of direct sunlight.  Follow the dose, route, expiration date and booster recommendations to ensure the best outcome.  Separate syringes and needles should be used when administering two or more vaccines at the same time.

5.  Remember, even the best vaccine protocols and handling practices cannot prevent all diseases.
Vaccines are designed to strategically boost the immune system to aid in disease prevention.  High pathogen pressure, poor nutrition, and/or inadequate facilities will overcome the best immune defenses and vaccination schedules.  Work with your veterinarian to promote proper biosecurity practices on your farm that will help limit disease entry and transmission.  In addition, work with your nutritionist to provide adequate calories for growth as well as vitamins and minerals for immune support.

Category: Animal health
Starting Strong - Calf Care