Farm Progress

Preweaning vaccinations have lasting benefits for calves.

April 27, 2018

3 Min Read
TIMELY INNOCULATIONS: Vaccinating calves before weaning, at around 4 months old, can provide protection from such diseases as BVDV and BRD.Alfribeiro/iStock/Thinkstock

There are long-term advantages to vaccinating beef calves before weaning.

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

Colostrum consumed by a newborn calf provides protection against infectious diseases. However, the protection is only temporary, lasting a few weeks to a few months, and calves must start building their own immunities, according to Ohio State University Extension researchers. The following are three key benefits of incorporating preweaning 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. Research on preweaning vaccinations from the University of Minnesota Extension found that stress can cause immunosuppression in a calf, decreasing its ability to respond to disease-causing pathogens and vaccines, and making it susceptible to respiratory disease.  “Early vaccination gives calves the opportunity to stimulate their immune systems to work at optimum levels,” says Step.

2. Enhanced BRD and BVDV protection. Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) has long been held as one of the top health and economic issues facing the beef industry today. Once calves are affected by BRD, there are both immediate and long-lasting effects on performance. Studies from the University of Wisconsin 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, according to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services-Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health.

Collaborative studies from universities in Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi 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,” Step says.

3. It’s 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, according to the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“When your calves are protected and healthy, it will show in their performance and well-being,” says Step.

Preweaning 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,” Step adds. “For best results, ensure you are handling and administering the vaccines in accordance with Beef Quality Assurance guidelines.”

By incorporating early vaccination into a regimen, producers can enhance their herd health and create the quality of animals sought by feedyards, packers and, ultimately, consumers.

Source: Boehringer Ingelheim

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like