Close gaps in your vaccination program
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Close gaps in your vaccination program

May 17, 2021
POSTED BY: Ken Learmont | DVM | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

In my role as a Dairy Technical Services veterinarian, I spend considerable time troubleshooting health challenges on dairies and heifer-growing operations. I’ve seen a common challenge: gaps in vaccination programs. These gaps occur for many reasons, from forgetting to vaccinate a group to using the right vaccine the wrong way to overlooking the critical step of revaccination.

It’s important for veterinarians and producers to work together to close those gaps. An effective vaccination program spans key growth stages, from newborn calves to prefresh heifers, to help minimize disease risk and maximize lifetime productivity potential.

Over the years, I’ve developed some guidelines to help producers and growers work with their veterinarians to consider the big picture when reviewing vaccination programs. These guidelines include:

1) Open the lines of communication with your veterinarian.

I encourage regular conversations with veterinarians, the ultimate experts on animal health issues, especially for your cattle. Use the time to:

  • Review herd data and current vaccination programs.
  • Discuss any previous or existing health challenges.
  • Identify disease-causing pathogens present on your operation.
  • Determine types of vaccines needed and when and how they should be administered.
  • Create a well-thought-out timeline for administering vaccines at each life stage.
  • Help educate and train employees about why vaccinations are necessary, why following vaccination schedules is important and how to properly administer vaccines.

2) Understand the importance of vaccinations and the diseases you need to vaccinate for at each life stage.

Heifers are exposed to disease-causing pathogens throughout each growth stage, so we need to prepare them. Work with your veterinarian to better understand potential health challenges at each life stage, which vaccines are necessary and why.

Pre-weaned and post-weaned calves

  • Goal: Prime their immune systems and get them off to a strong start.
  • Discussion point: Vaccinate to help support respiratory disease prevention.

Disease management is vital to overall calf wellness and helping them achieve their lifetime potential. Talk with your veterinarian about the benefits of delivering INFORCE 3® respiratory vaccine at birth to help stimulate immunity where pathogens attack first — the upper airways. As a calf’s immune system develops, vaccination will help trigger an immune response and help prime the immune system for a memory response to subsequent disease challenges.

Don’t forget that respiratory diseases continue to be a health challenge in post-weaned heifers. Therefore, a second dose of INFORCE 3 delivered at weaning is recommended.

Prebreeding heifers and breeding-age heifers

  • Goal: Lower the risk of fertility-reducing diseases.
  • Discussion point: Prepare heifers for breeding by helping protect them against diseases that reduce fertility and cause abortions.

Consider a reproductive vaccination program that includes BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP® 5 L5 HB to help provide protection where it matters most — the reproductive tract. Look for a viral combination vaccine that prevents Lepto hardjo-bovis infections in the kidney, shedding in the urine and establishment in the reproductive tract.

Prefresh heifers and cows

  • Goal: Help reduce disease challenges by building their immunity.
  • Discussion point: Protect prefresh heifers’ fragile immune systems.

Prefresh immunity can be compromised when heifers start preparing for freshening and colostrum production for their calves. This change, coupled with the demands of lactation, weakens their ability to respond to disease exposure.

Consider vaccinating prefresh or fresh heifers to help reduce the risk of respiratory infections. INFORCE 3 can help trigger an immune response to help prime the immune system.

Vaccinating against scours can be important for adequate antibody transfer into the colostrum. Vaccinating healthy pregnant heifers and cows with ScourGuard® 4KC will help them develop protective antibodies to bolster colostrum, which passes disease-fighting antibodies to calves.

3) Understand the importance of duration of immunity (DOI).

The DOI is the duration of time that the vaccine is proven to be effective in studies approved by The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Each antigen in the vaccine can have different DOI claims, and many vaccines may not have a demonstrated DOI on the label at all. The statement 'vaccinate annually' does not indicate the DOI; rather, it is the default provided by the USDA if no DOI data is provided. Only studies that are specifically designed to determine DOI can provide the DOI information. In general, you should select vaccines with longer demonstrated protection to help ensure your cattle are protected during critical exposure periods when disease resistance is low and disease challenge is high.

4) Maintain bulletproof records.

There should be no holes in your health records. For every single vaccination, include animal ID, date of birth, vaccination type, date of administration, dosage and reactions, if any. Be sure to share these records not only with your veterinarian but also with your employees. It’s especially important for growers and their customers to share health and vaccination records with each other and herd veterinarians for both the home farm and the grower.

Work closely with your veterinarian. Consider these tips during your conversations. By establishing a solid, lifelong vaccination program, you can help ensure health and wellness at each life stage.

LABEL INDICATIONS FOR BOVI-SHIELD: Do not use in pregnant cattle (abortions can result) unless they were vaccinated, according to label directions, with any BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP or PREGGUARD GOLD FP vaccine prebreeding initially and within 12 months thereafter. Do not use in calves nursing pregnant cows unless their dams were vaccinated within the past 12 months as described above. To help ensure safety in pregnant cattle, heifers must receive at least 2 doses of any BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP or PREGGUARD GOLD FP vaccine with the second dose administered approximately 30 days prebreeding.

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