Vaccination never guarantees absolute protection. There are too many factors that influence success or failure, says John Spitzer of Pecan Drive Veterinary Services in Vinta, OK. But, an awareness of the factors can help increase cattle resistance to disease and decrease the challenge, he adds.

Achieving protection to every known disease in every animal in a herd isn't possible, nor cost effective, he says. The goal of a vaccination program is to raise the level of immunity in a sufficient number of susceptible animals to prevent epidemics and severe monetary loss.

Spitzer says a vaccine program must consider the risks of disease exposure, as identified by your veterinarian for your operation in your specific area. Once risks are identified, a decision can be made on the economics of buying protection from that risk.

A vaccination program's quality is determined by the animals' immune status, proper vaccine selection, timing and proper administration. These factors are mostly within producers' control and must be used advantageously, keeping in mind the importance of decreasing the field challenge, as well, he says.

Spitzer says a successful program strives to, not only increase herd resistance, but decrease the challenge facing that herd. That means improving a herd's isolation practices, sanitation and security.

“Anything you can do to minimize the challenge helps to achieve the desired effect of your vaccination program,” Spitzer says.

Finally, good health management doesn't come in a syringe. Attention to detail — in vitamin, mineral, protein and energy nutritional status — is critical to an animal's ability to respond to a vaccination program, he adds.

Spitzer recommends producers work with their veterinarians to design a plan tailored to their herd's needs and area.