What do we vaccinate cows for?

Just as young children go for vaccines at different times throughout their life, so do our cattle.  Last time, I discussed why we vaccinate our cattle.  This week, for Farm Fact Friday, I’ll be sharing with you what we vaccinate our cattle for.

Cattle are prone to infectious diseases when they are exposed from other cattle, just like humans are prone to infectious diseases when they are around other people.  In the past, on our farm, we only ran our cows by themselves.  However, we still vaccinated because some diseases that cattle can get can occur from a depressed immune system.

When we vaccinate our cattle we follow the label instructions for that vaccine.  The label tells us the route of administration, dose (per animal), and withdrawl period.

The vaccines have different routes they are administered.  The vaccines we administer can be subcutaneous (under the skin), inter-muscular (into the muscle), or inter-nasal (a mist administered into the nostril).  The dose is followed accordingly.  There is no advantage to giving an animal that might be immunosuppressed an “extra” dose.  This is just wasting money.  The withdrawl period is the amount of time post-vaccine the animal has before it can enter the food chain.  There are different withdrawl times for milk and meat.  The onus is on the farmer to obey the withdrawl time, but being a Verified Beef Producer, we have to sign-off on all animals when the leave the farm making sure we’ve checked each animal for their withdrawl period.

In the spring, after the cows have calved and before we turn them out on pasture, they receive two vaccinations. The very first vaccine a calf receive is a birth.  They get a dose of an internasal vaccine to protect them from pneumonia.  At the same time as the cows in the spring, the calves receive their first set of vaccines.

When the cows and calves are brought home from pasture in the fall, before weaning we “pre-condition” calves and boost their spring time vaccines.

When we check the cows to see if they are pregnant in the fall, we give the pregnant heifers (girl animals that have not had a calf yet) a dose of a vaccine to protects the fetal calf from scours (diarrhea).  For the cows that have had a calf already and have the first dose of the scours vaccine the year before and all the heifers we vaccinated in the fall, they receive scour booster a month before calving.

Our bull herd also receives their vaccines yearly in the spring too.  They are vaccinated for the same diseases as our calves.  We also give our bulls a vaccine to protect their feet from a bacteria called fusobacterium necrophorum.  This can cause a bull to get foot rot and become lame and not do his breeding duties.  The vaccine also helps reduce the incidence of liver abcesses.

All our cattle—cows, calves, and bulls—receive a topical (on the skin) delice treatment.  This treatment is dosed by weight, meaning different size classes of animals will receive a different dose.  The delice treatment helps in preventing lice and warbles in the animals.  Lice can suck blood from the animal, causing them to become anemic and potentially die, if left untreated.

We vaccinate our cattle, because we believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Without vaccines, we run the risk for higher antibiotic use, increased veterinarian bill, lost of condition in the animals (losing weight), and even death of that animal.  For those reasons and many more, we chose to vaccinate our cow herd.