Cow/calf Herd Health Management
By Dr. Parker Jr. DVM
Spiraling input production costs (Feed, Fuel, and Fertilizer) and competition by the pork and poultry industries for lower priced meats, requires cattlemen to become more efficient to stay in business. Death of an animal is recognized by all as a financial loss. The loss of reproductive efficiency from disease is not so easy to recognize. Reproductive losses are hidden in increased overhead, poor rate of gain, long reproductive interval, and a smaller sized calf crop. With this in mind, cattle owners should work with their veterinarian to minimize losses due to death and disease. Vaccinations, to prevent calf death losses and cow reproductive losses, are one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to insure the producer that the sellable calf crop will be as large as possible.
Cattle vaccinations for the Cow/calf herd can be divided into two categories - cow reproduction vaccines and growing calf vaccines. These two categories may be further divided into Core vaccines and Risk Based vaccines. Core vaccines provide protection from diseases that are almost always present in the environment where cattle are raised. A good example of a core vaccine would be the clostridial or Blackleg vaccine. This clostridial bacterium is present in most soils and is a constant threat to calves produced in all parts of Oklahoma. Risk based vaccines are used in situations where the risk or occurrence of a disease in a local area or herd justifies the use of an additional vaccine. An example of some risk based vaccines would be Pinkeye, Foot Rot, and Anaplasmosis.
Cow Reproduction Vaccinations These vaccinations are for the prevention of reproductive failure (Goal: a live calf every 12 months).
Vaccinate heifers for Bangs disease (Brucellosis) between the ages of 4 to 10 months. This is no longer a requirement in Oklahoma but can be a useful marketing tool, especially when selling groups of bred heifers or marketing replacement heifers to buyers in other states.
Cows, Bulls, and Breeding age Heifers prior to the breeding season:
IBR, PI3, BRSV, BVD type I and II
4 Ė way viral vaccine. Modified live vaccine (MLV) if possible.
Vibrio / Lepto 5 way. This may be given as a separate vaccination, or with the
4-way viral vaccine above. Multiple manufacturers sell the combination
4 + VL5 vaccine (MLV) which only requires one injection Sub Q, in the neck.
Vibrio (vibriosis or camplyobacter) causes temporary infertility resulting in repeat breeding, prolonged reproductive interval, and open cows at pregnancy check. Lepto (leptospirosis) is the most common cause of late term, infectious, abortion in cows. Lepto survives in ponds and non-flowing surface water sources; it is shed in the urine of many domestic animals, wildlife, and rodents.
Cows and Heifers when confirmed pregnant
Lepto-5 way in neck SQ. (optional in many operations)
Cows and Heifers 60 days Pre-calving
E. coli, rotavirus, corona virus (calf scours vaccine)
Note: If the vaccination program and herd management is adequate, most pregnant females
should not need any additional vaccinations before calving. The exception to this is when first calf heifers are moved and calved out in confinement for ease of observation. First calf heifers will usually have decreased colostrum quality compared to a mature cow. If neonatal calf scours has been a problem in the herd, the pregnant heifers may need a scours vaccination in the hopes of being able to pass on some protection through their colostrum to their newborn calf.
Bulls and adult cows have similar needs from a health standpoint. Bulls should receive basically the same vaccination program as the cows which would include a 4-way viral vaccine (IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV) and the Vibrio/Lepto-5 way. Before each breeding season, bulls should have a Breeding Soundness Exam (BSE). Approximately 18 per cent of all bulls fail a BSE for any number of reasons. A BSE should include a collection and examination of semen, scrotal measurement and exam, a physical extension and examination of the penis. Also, examine feet, legs, and eyes of all bulls for defects that would limit a bullís function.