Protecting your herd couldn’t be more important than it is right now. With cattle markets at an all-time high, getting optimum production out of your investment is pivotal. This involves well-planned vaccination and parasite control programs for cows and their calves entering late spring and early summer.

“Producers need to have a comprehensive herd health plan in place to keep their calves healthy throughout weaning and beyond,” says Dr. Jerry Woodruff, professional services veterinarian for Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI).  This includes vaccinations to protect calves against clostridial diseases and bovine respiratory disease (BRD). A good parasite control program is also essential to help provide an optimum immune system response to vaccination in breeding stock and calves.

Benefits of Calf Vaccination

Woodruff says young calves can benefit from branding time vaccinations. “It was once thought that young calves didn’t respond well to vaccinations,” he says. “But early calf vaccination has proven to be very effective at spring turnout or branding time in preventing bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), BRD and other diseases.”

Dr. Travis Van Anne, another BIVI professional services veterinarian, says preweaning vaccines start at branding, or even at birth on many operations. “Oftentimes, we start at birth with a clostridial vaccine, like Alpha-7®, especially in areas where enterotoxemia (which can cause severe diarrhea and even sudden death) is prevalent,” he says.

“Then, around 1–3 months of age, we give a combination viral and BRD vaccine, like Pyramid® 5 + Presponse® SQ, which has no age restriction for calves.”

Woodruff says research conducted by Dr. Zimmerman and associates at the Brookings, SD research facility, shows that five-week old calves vaccinated with Pyramid 5 “mounted a strong immune response that protected those calves against BVD challenge as much as seven months after vaccination.”

Woodruff adds early vaccinations help prepare calves for stress and disease exposure in future production stages. “Early calf vaccinations set up the calf’s immune system,” he says. “It primes the immune system so that calves can better respond to second and third vaccinations.

“It all ties into the next stage of production. The healthier those calves are and the better they perform, the better the ranch’s reputation for producing good marketable calves for stocker operators and feedyards.”