Producers in the Southern High Plains are feeling the long-term effects of an extended drought.

“We are experiencing an atypical year,” says Dr. Mac Devin, Senior Professional Services Veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. “We are seeing a lot of immune function issues with calves this year.”

Dr. Devin, based in central Texas, points out that if one counts back seven or eight months ago and looks at the stress those dams were under, that stress is showing up in the calves.

The reduced forage quality and other drought stress affected the amount and quality of colostrum that the cow produced in the last trimester. Past research has shown that calves not receiving an adequate amount of high quality colostrum were more prone disease challenges, shares Dr. Devin.

At the ranch level, Dr. Devin suggests that producers make sure to have a mineral mix in front of calves prior to vaccination to help the calves’ immune systems respond. “We want to make sure we don’t do anything that could impede the response to vaccination,” says Dr. Devin.

Dr. Devin gives the following recommendations for calves arriving from stressed environments:

  • Nutrients: Eensure that calves have access to fresh water and have adequate intake of feed and energy upon arrival
  • Handling: Don’t add to the stress; make sure to handle cattle quietly and efficiently
  • Vaccinations: Vaccinating calves with a modified-live virus vaccine, like PYRAMID 5 + PRESPONSE SQ that protects against respiratory disease caused by BVD, BRSV, IBR and PI3, as well as Mannheimia haemolytica.

“We do many of these things already, but this year it is really important that we follow through,” concludes Dr. Devin. “We need to recognize that we may have a subset of calves that won’t respond due to stress. We need to watch the calves closely, and follow up with a second dose of modified-live virus vaccine if needed.”

Watch a video interview with Dr. Mac Devin here.