Benefits of Pre-Weaning Vaccinations in Beef Calves

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“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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Weaning management

If the spring-born calves aren’t weaned yet, then the time isn’t far away now that fall is here. This month we’ll look at recent research from Philipe Moriel and others at North Carolina State University on the role of maternal nutrition in calf performance and health.

Veterinarians and ranchers know healthy weaned calves begin with a well-vaccinated cowherd long before calving, because high-quality colostrum minimizes disease exposure for nursing calves. All true, yes, but even the best established herd immunity can fall short if nutrition falls short in the days before calving.

Work from the 1970s told us calves born to nutrient-restricted cows were more likely to be treated for bovine respiratory disease with greater death loss than calves from cows with adequate nutrition. More recent Nebraska field trials suggest protein supplementation to pregnant cows during the last trimester of gestation improves carcass quality grade and weights in steer progeny while decreasing puberty age and improving pregnancy rates in heifer calves compared to those from unsupplemented dams. These studies demonstrated the potential impact of extended nutrient restriction in late gestation. read more…

Tips on keeping your calves healthy at weaning

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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…