Vaccination Recommendations for Small Ruminants
The core vaccines recommended for Virginia small ruminants, such as sheep, goats, and alpacas, are Rabies and CDT vaccines.
The CDT vaccine provides protection against overeating disease and tetanus. Overeating disease causes rapid illness and sudden death, typically in young, well-fed animals. Small ruminants are more susceptible to tetanus than cattle. High risk times for tetanus include disbudding, tail docking, banding, breeding, and delivery. We recommend 2-3 doses in young stock 4-6 weeks apart with the last dose after 12 weeks old. The timing of the initial dose depends on management, including vaccination status of the dam and whether high risk procedures will be performed. In mature stock, annual vaccination is recommended. Breeding males are typically vaccinated pre-breeding while females benefit from a dose prior to parturition to boost colostrum and provide added protection during delivery.
We strongly encourage rabies vaccination in small ruminants due to their risk of exposure to wildlife combined with frequent contact with humans. Rabies is a viral neurologic disease that can be passed to humans and is virtually 100% fatal. Other neurologic diseases such as listeriosis, polioencephalomalacia, and meningeal worm are common in small ruminants. When animals develop neurologic symptoms, we worry less about the risk of rabies exposure to human caretakers when the patient is vaccinated against rabies. The rabies vaccine should be administered by a licensed veterinarian to animals 12 weeks old and then annually.