These are the core vaccines recommended annually in Virginia beef and dairy cattle.
“Blackleg” Clostridial seven-way (e.g. Alpha7, Caliber7)
This vaccine protects against an array of diseases causing rapid illness and sudden death. The organism persists indefinitely in soil. Death occurs in our area each year in unvaccinated stock.
Reproductive/Respiratory “Five-Way” (e.g. Bovishield Gold FP5L5, Express FP10, Pyramid5, Triangle10)
This vaccine protects against the viruses that contribute to shipping fever. The same viruses also cause reproductive disease, including poor fertility, birth defects, and abortion. Therefore, annual vaccination is important in both young stock and breeding cattle.
There are two formulations of this vaccine. The modified live vaccine produces better immunity, but is not safe for use in pregnant animals. Modified live vaccines should also be avoided close to synchronization and breeding as they can cause temporary inflammation of the ovaries.
Calves ideally receive at least one dose prior to weaning, preferably two. Ideally, vaccination should occur at 4-6 months old for lasting immunity.
The breeding herd typically receives this vaccine 30-45 days prior to the breeding season as a modified live vaccine or at pregnancy diagnosis as a killed vaccine. The killed vaccine is typically used in herds that only round up once a year or in herds with a variable calving season.
Intranasal formulations exist that are very helpful for immediate local immunity. Depending on the herd, we use intranasals as a first round vaccine in animals less than three months old; at birth for herds with a history of pneumonia in pre-weaned calves; during stressful events such as shipment or commingling; or in the face of a respiratory outbreak.
Leptospirosis vaccination is recommended once or twice annually in breeding stock. Leptospirosis causes mid to late term abortion in cattle. The vaccine does not provide lasting immunity. Therefore, we often booster the vaccine at pregnancy diagnosis. Leptospirosis is often available in combination with a respiratory five-way as a single injection.
Other Cattle Vaccines To Consider in Specific Circumstances
Tetanus vaccination is recommended at banding. Tetanus is available as a three-way (CDT) or in combination with a Clostridial 7-way (e.g. Covexin8, Cavalry9). Ideally, the first dose is administered prior to banding with a booster at banding. The vaccine is not necessary if banding occurs immediately at birth.
Pinkeye vaccination is only moderately effective due to the large and variable strains of bacteria causing this disease. We do not routinely recommend pinkeye vaccination, but for herds with consistent pinkeye issues, we strongly encourage use of the autogenous pinkeye vaccine that we carry which was produced from several local strains.
Scour vaccines prevent scours caused by E coli at birth or by rota and corona viruses at 2-3 weeks old. The vaccine can be administered orally at birth to calves or pre-calving to cows. We typically use these vaccines only in herds with a history of scours.
Pasturella/Mannheimia vaccines are moderately effective, but also highly irritating. For this reason, we do not routinely use this vaccine except in herds that have a history of respiratory disease in calves, or as required for special sales and shows. The vaccine is available in combination with a five-way respiratory vaccine.
Brucella is a regulated vaccine that can only be administered by a USDA-accredited veterinarian to 4-11-month-old heifers. Permanent identification and a tattoo are required at vaccination. Brucella vaccination has become less routine over the past decade. It is still common practice among seedstock producers and for heifers entering special sales.
Salmonella/Gram negative vaccines are used in dairy cattle to minimize the systemic toxic effects of Gram negative mastitis. The vaccine does not prevent infection of the udder. Vaccination occurs at dry off and after freshening.
In cattle, vaccine schedules are typically built around the reproductive cycle. In beef cattle especially, the vaccine choices and timing are significantly impacted by how often the producer can round up and work the cattle through the chute. Minimizing trips through the chute reduces stress, risk of injury and disease transfer in animals and reduces labor. Therefore, a balance should be struck between maximizing vaccine protection and avoiding excessive trips through the chute.