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Calf abortions: Finding the cause

November 13, 2013
POSTED BY: Greg Edwards | DVM | Managing Veterinarian | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

When it comes to abortion, vaccines often get the blame. However, vaccines aren’t always the culprit. Other factors could trigger an abortion:

  • Elevated stress during handling can can result in cortisol release that may cause abortions in heifers
  • Use of vaccines that are improperly stored
  • Use of vaccines improperly administered
  • Use of dirty needles
  • Use of more than two Gram-negative vaccines administered at once, which can cause Gram-negative endotoxins to spike

Why are you giving vaccines? When used correctly, vaccines help protect pregnancies. But producers should work with their veterinarians to choose the right vaccines and establish protocols. To get the best animal health outcomes from your vaccine protocols, consider the following management practices.

When are you giving vaccines? Remember, pregnant cattle can receive modified-live viral (MLV) vaccines, but they must always be introduced to MLVs before pregnancy. If they aren’t exposed pre-pregnancy, they are at a high risk of abortion.

Timing is everything. Vaccines have a lag time between the time of injection and when the body is able to respond to it. Give a cow’s immune system enough time to recognize the virus or bacterium and create a protective response.

Balance protocols and convenience. Protocols sometimes need to be balanced with convenience on an operation. This way, the protocols work for everyone on the farm.

Work with your veterinarian to develop protocols that work for everyone on the operation and will help create better protection for pregnant cattle.


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