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Why Vaccinate? Important Considerations for Cattle and Small Ruminant Herds

Vaccines are one of the mainstays of disease prevention that we provide for our animals. There are core vaccines that we recommend for every herd, while others are used only in specific higher risk situations. Vaccines are chosen based on the risk of exposure, how common a disease is, and the cost of the disease when it occurs.

Most vaccines used in livestock should be administered annually. It is important to administer vaccines at the appropriate time with regards to the animals’ age and reproductive status. They must always be stored properly, including during herd work. Vaccines are sensitive to heat, freezing, and light. Vaccines that require mixing prior to use are typically only effective for one hour after mixing, so it is important to use small bottles and administer promptly after mixing. Many vaccines require a booster 4-6 weeks after the initial dose followed by annual boosters.

Typically, animals are unable to create lasting immunity in response to vaccines prior to three months of age due to residual immunity from colostrum still circulating in their bodies. There are situations where we recommend vaccinating prior to three months of age, typically to protect against diseases that significantly affect suckling animals. In these cases we always recommend at least one additional dose after three months old to develop full protection.

It is important to remember that only a healthy body can only fully respond to vaccination. Malnutrition or mineral deficiency severely impacts the immune system’s ability to respond to vaccination. Stress also impairs the immune system. Low-stress cattle handling, quality nutrition including mineral supplementation and injectable mineral at the time of vaccination can significantly enhance vaccine response. Weaning and shipping are the most stressful events experienced by young stock so it is best to vaccinate prior to these events for full protection. Protection from vaccines can be overwhelmed with extreme or continued exposure to pathogens. Therefore, biosecurity and careful consideration of sources of new cattle are integral parts of minimizing disease in your herd.

Click the buttons below to read more about specific recommendations for small ruminants and cattle.

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