Benefits of Pre-Weaning Vaccinations in Beef Calves


“Producers should consider vaccinating calves at 2 to 4 months of age, depending on the operation,” said Dr. DL Step, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim.

Colostrum consumed by a newborn calf provides protection against infectious diseases. However, this protection is only temporary, lasting a few weeks to months, and calves must start building their own immunities. Vaccination during this time of transition can help protect the calf until weaning age. The following are three key benefits of incorporating pre-weaning vaccinations on your operation.

  1. Reduced stress

During weaning, calves are faced with stressors such as castration, transportation, disease challenges, weather fluctuations, dietary changes and more. Stress can cause immunosuppression in a calf, decreasing its ability to respond to disease-causing pathogens and vaccines, making it susceptible to respiratory disease. “Early vaccination gives calves the opportunity to stimulate their immune systems to work at optimum levels,” said Dr. Step.

  1. Enhanced BRD and BVDV protection

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the top health and economic issue facing the beef industry today.3 Once calves are affected by BRD, there are both immediate and long-lasting effects on performance. Studies have shown that calves challenged by BRD could weigh up to 36 pounds less at weaning than their healthy herd mates. Early vaccination can help producers prepare calves for challenges they may face during weaning time, ensure calves are less susceptible to becoming infected with pathogens and have a more rapid immune response to the various pathogens that cause BRD.

Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), another growing health issue in the cattle industry, can result in reproductive, digestive and respiratory problems in the herd. Once infected, calves can shed a high level of the virus, spreading the disease to other susceptible animals. Studies have demonstrated calves as young as 5 to 6 weeks of age can be effectively immunized against BVDV. “BVDV Type 1b has been identified as the most common subtype found in persistently infected calves, so make sure the vaccine you choose offers solid protection against it,” Dr. Step recommended.

  1. Cost effective

In the case of calf health, prevention is key. Calves affected by BRD can greatly reduce profits through poor performance and increased morbidity. The average cost of BRD in the U.S. cattle industry is more than $640 million annually. “When your calves are protected and healthy, it will show in their performance and well-being,” said Dr. Step.

Pre-weaning vaccination is an opportunity to provide additional comfort and protection for your calves. “Producers should work with their local veterinarian to develop a vaccination program catered to their environmental conditions and herd goals,” Dr. Step added. Read More…

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Tips on keeping your calves healthy at weaning


Farmers need to make a conscious effort to keep the weaning process as stress free as possible, according to Zoetis’ Vet Charles Chavasse.

The Zoetis Area Veterinary Manager said that it is really important for farmers to keep their weanlings healthy over the next couple of months.

Speaking at a recent weanling information organised by Gain Feeds, Chavasse said the first step in keeping cattle healthy is getting them through the weaning process stress free.

Stress can be a huge issue, he said, as it can lead to an increase in the number of cases of pneumonia.

We must be aware that things like dehorning and castration are incredibly stressful for animals.

Farmers need to time these processes, he said, and they should be avoided around weaning and housing as these are two of the most stressful times for young cattle.

He also said that farmers need to be aware of diet changes, as putting weanlings on high energy diets can cause acidosis and this pushes downs the weanlings ability to fight off disease.

Monitoring performance

Monitoring a weanlings performance is a really good way of telling farmers how well they are managing their weanlings, he said.  Read more…

Monitoring calf care: Goals and thresholds

calves1.Newborn care and feeding colostrum:Quarterly – draw blood from all heifer calves between 2 and 7 days of age on herd check day.Goal for blood serum total protein is 80 percent 5.0 and greater, 50 percent 5.5 and greater.Quarterly – summarize the number of new navel infections requiring treatment.Goal for navel infections is less than 10 percent.

2. Colostrum collection and storage:Quarterly – collect “as-fed” sample of colostrum and culture for bacteria.Goal is less than 5,000 cfu/ml of coliform or other enterotoxic bacteria.

3. Cleaning milk feeding equipment:Quarterly – collect rinse samples from (a) nursing bottle and nipple, (b) esophageal tube feeder, and (c) buckets used to store colostrum and milk replacer mixing and feeding. Culture samples for bacteria.Goal is less than 5,000 cfu/ml of coliform or other enterotoxic bacteria.Quarterly – collect “as-fed” sample of milk replacer and culture for bacteria.Goal is less than 5,000 cfu/ml of coliform or other enterotoxic bacteria.

4. Calf growth rates:Within the first three days of life, using a heart girth weight tape, estimate birth weights on all even numbered calves.Using the same tape, estimate weaning weights of all calves taped at birth.Quarterly – summarize the amount of weight gained by these calves and estimate average daily gain.Goal is at least 1.7 pounds average daily gain at 42 days.

What to do when goals are not met, read more…