What Vaccinations Do Newborn Calves Need

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Calving season for many producers is near, which means it is time to develop a Herd Health Plan to start those newborn calves out on the right track, promoting good health. An appropriate Herd Health Plan/Protocol ensures that all cattle are raised in the best health.

A strong HHP begins with a yearly production calendar that includes cattle nutrition, reproduction management, vaccination schedules, and marketing all of which are critical to sustainable beef cattle production. Management practices can be better matched with cattle needs by looking at the annual production cycle month-by-month.

The University of NebraskaLincoln Animal Science Department has provided an example of a beef production calendar.

It’s Easier Than You Think To Raise Your Own Bottle Calves

If in the preceding pages I’ve given you the impression that raising bottle calves is an expensive and laborious undertaking fraught with pitfalls … believe me, it’s not. We’ve never regretted having a small herd of the calves around our farm: We’ve never felt bad, for instance, about having our own milk cow , or our own beef in the freezer … and the money we get every fall for the calves that we sell as yearlings always comes in mighty handy.

I suppose if I had just two words of advice to give to someone who hasn’t yet raised a bottle calf, they’d be: First, try to get as good a calf as you can find in the beginning. Second, don’t wait any longer … do it. You have nothing to lose and a good deal of milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cheese, beef, extra income, and satisfaction to gain!

Table 1 Modified Live Vaccines

Advantages Disadvantages
One initial dose may be sufficient, but boosters are sometimes required. Risk of causing abortion or transient infertility therefore, MLV should generally be administered 6 to 8 weeks prior to the breeding season .
Typically stimulate more rapid, stronger, and longer-lasting immunity than killed vaccines. Must be mixed on-farm and used within about 30 minutes.
Less likely than killed vaccines to cause allergic reactions and post-vaccination lumps.
Usually less expensive than killed vaccines.

Killed vaccines and toxoids contain organisms or subunits of organisms that do not replicate or reproduce themselves in the animal following administration. KVs usually contain adjuvants, or added substances, that further stimulate the immune system to respond to the vaccine challenge. KVs are safe to use in any animal, including pregnant cows .

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Vaccinating For Diseases That Are A Routine Threat

Vaccines are available for many disease conditions. However, many diseases are not a routine threat to most beef herds, and some vaccines are not sufficiently effective to justify their use. Therefore, only a few vaccines are included in a routine vaccination schedule. The glossary of conditions and terms at the end of this publication lists both routine and not-so-routine infectious diseases and vaccines for them.

Vaccinations For Different Animals In The Herd

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Every cattle operation will have unique vaccination requirements based on individual herd goals, so the following guidelines for vaccinating cattle may not be applicable in all situations. The best use of these guidelines is as a starting point to develop an effective vaccination protocol with your herd-health veterinarian and/or Extension agent. When appropriate, ensure that products are safe for pregnant animals and for calves nursing pregnant cows. Properly store and administer vaccines according to label directions adhere to designated meat withdrawal times booster primary vaccinations when recommended and follow all Beef Quality Assurance guidelines.

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Proper Handling Of Vaccines

The best vaccine program will fail if the product is damaged by improper handling. For example, if the label says to store a vaccine at 35 to 45 degrees F, the vaccine should be refrigerated. Vaccines should not be allowed to freeze, nor should they be stored in direct sunlight.

Most MLVs must be reconstituted by adding sterile water to a dehydrated cake in a separate sterile vial. Once the water is added, the vaccine organisms are fragile and will be live for only a short time. As a rule of thumb, only reconstitute enough vaccine to be used in 30 to 45 minutes, and use a cooler or other climate-controlled storage container to protect reconstituted vaccines from extremes of cold, heat, and sunlight.

Keep needles and syringes clean to avoid infections at the site of injection. DO NOT use disinfectants to clean needles and syringes used to administer vaccines, especially MLVs. Even a trace or film of disinfectant in a syringe or needle can kill the live organisms and make the vaccine worthless. Follow product guidelines for cleaning multi-use vaccine syringe guns, but in general, after use, rinse thoroughly with hot water to clean the injection equipment, and then sterilize it using boiling water.

Figure 1. Use neck for injections. Do not inject in rump or leg.

Table 2 Killed Vaccines And Toxoids

More likely to cause allergic reactions and post-vaccination lumps.
No risk of the vaccine organism spreading between animals. Two initial doses required.
Minimal risk of causing abortion. Slower onset of immunity.
Immunity is usually not as strong or long-lasting as MLV products.
Usually more expensive than MLV products.

Chemically altered vaccines contain modified live organisms that are grown in chemicals that cause specific mutations of the organism. An example of chemically altered vaccine technology is temperature-sensitive vaccine organisms that cannot replicate at an animals normal body temperature but can grow at the temperatures associated with the ocular or nasal mucosa. Because there is no systemic replication with TS vaccines, they are safe for use in pregnant animals .

Although vaccines will not cause the disease they are supposed to protect against, some animals may have a fever temporarily after vaccination. Some animals also may have swelling and soreness at the sight of injection. In some cases, animals may go off feed and decrease milk production for a few days.

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Some Common Illnesses Of Cattle

It goes without saying that when you acquire your first bottle calf, you should check with your county agent or veterinarian to determine which vaccines are recommended for cattle in your area … then have your calf vaccinated. This will take care of most of the important, life-threatening illnesses with which your calf may come in contact.

Unfortunately for the small holder, there are at least as many cattle ailments for which no vaccine exists as there are illnesses of the “immunizable” type. The following represent some of the more common “non-immunizable” illnesses that can afflict cattle of all ages.

Colds: I find that if one of my calves gets a runny nose or shows any other signs of a cold, a scaled-up dose of common aspirin and a shot of Combiotic will usually knock the infection right out. In addition, if the animal has the chills and is shivering, I fix him a warm toddy consisting of ¼ cup of whiskey, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of honey, and 1/8 of a teaspoon of powdered A and D vitamins mixed in 1 cup of warm water.

Hardware Disease: It’s a fact: If nuts, bolts, nails, staples, and other small metallic objects are left around, they’ll often disappear into a calf’s stomach. This in turn gives rise to an illness known as “hardware disease,” the symptoms of which include pain and a lack of appetite that’s not accompanied by distension of the stomach.

Originally Published: March/April 1978

What To Do If Your Calf Refuses Its Bottle

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Sometimes a perfectly healthy calf will refuse the bottle. I find that the easiest way to get a reluctant calf to eat in such a case is to fill the bottle with milk that’s nice and warm, stand astraddle the calf, holding him firmly between your knees, lean forward until your chest is over its head, and place the bottle in the calf’s mouth. Of course if the calf is particularly husky, you’ll have to watch that he doesn’t throw his head up quickly and bump you in the chest. This method has, however, always worked well for me .

After a couple of feedings by the “overhead” method described above, you should be able to hold the bottle through the fence and feed the calf in the normal way.

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Glossary Of Conditions And Terms

Anaplasmosis. An often fatal infectious disease of cattle caused by a microscopic parasite of red blood cells, spread by ticks or horsefly bites or by reusing needles or instruments between animals. A vaccine is available in some states with a conditional USDA license, but unless the risk is high, a routine vaccination for anaplasmosis is not recommended.

Bacterin. A bacterial vaccine.

BRSV . A virus that can cause severe, acute respiratory disease, especially in young cattle.

BVD . A disease caused by bovine viral diarrhea virus , resulting in numerous problems, such as damage to the digestive and immune systems, pneumonia, abortions, calf deformities, and others. Incomplete vaccination programs, such as those omitting a needed booster vaccination, have led to BVD outbreaks in some herds.

Blackleg. A highly fatal disease of young cattle caused by one type of Clostridium bacteria. See Clostridial disease.

Brucellosis. An infection resulting in abortion in females and inflammation and damage to the testicles in males, caused by the bacterium Brucella abortus. Also known as Bangs disease. See Calfhood vaccination.

Calfhood vaccination . Vaccination against Brucella abortus for heifers between approximately 4 and 10 months old . Calfhood vaccination must be administered by a federally accredited veterinarian . Calfhood vaccination against Brucella abortus is not mandatory in most states.

PI3 . A virus that can cause respiratory disease.

Nasal Vaccines Recommended For Newborn Calves

Using nasal vaccines on newborn calves can be good protection, particularly if maternal antibodies might be low, says a bovine veterinarian.

Dr. Nathan Erickson, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewans Western College of Veterinary Medicine, said nasal vaccine use on neonatal calves those newborn to three months old can head off various respiratory diseases.

Prior to nursing, the calves really do not have much in terms of immune response, Erickson said during a webinar organized by the Beef Cattle Research Council.

Not providing or having access to adequate colostrum can result in failure of passive transfer of maternal immunity to a newborn calf.

Cows and heifers vaccinated on a regular basis likely have adequate antibodies in their colostrum. In that case, maternal antibodies can interfere or block response to systemic vaccines administered to newborn calves.

Nasal vaccines bypass that effect, act directly at the site of infection and provide rapid disease control, said Erickson. However, the effects dont last as long as systemic vaccines.

Nasally applied or mucosal vaccines prime the immune tissue in surface layers, stimulating different types of antibodies than occur with systemic vaccines, and a more rapid response occurs.

We do get some priming of systemic immunity as well but not to the same level as an injectable vaccine would have.

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Keep Your Future Bottle Calf Dry And Warm

You can’t buy an already-stressed calf, haul it 30 miles in the back of a pickup in cold weather, and expect the animal to survive . Some provision must be made for keeping the calf dry and warm from the time you buy it until you can get it home to a draft-free pen.

Whenever Ken and I go out to buy a calf, we always drive through an alley behind a nearby appliance store and pick up a large cardboard crate , put some straw in the box, and set the container in the truck. Then we’re ready to tuck our new calf into a nice, comfortable, sheltered environment for the trip home.

When we arrive back at the farm, we immediately isolate the new calf from the rest of our herd. Then as an added precaution we change our clothes and shoes before doing any chores.

About housing: A simple three-sided lean-to built against the side of a shed or garage will suffice to keep your calf out of the cold. Or you can build a freestanding structure. Just plant four posts in the ground, nail 2-by-4s between the tops of the uprights, fasten old boards to the structure’s sides, and cover the top with chicken wire and a layer of straw or hay .

For his first few days at home, we like to make sure our new calf is dry, warm, and comfortable. That means plenty of straw or hay for bedding and if the weather is cold, a heat lamp for extra coziness . And do keep the calf both warm and dry, with the emphasis on that last word.

The Most Dreaded Calf Disease Of Them All: Scours

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Scours comes in a number of varieties: white, green, black, and bloody. The disorder can be brought on by any number of upsets, including exposure to wet and cold, overfeeding, contact with an infected animal, or a trip through the auction yard.

The disease begins with simple diarrhea. Unless this is stopped at once, the afflicted calf soon begins to pass yellowish, greenish, or light-brown feces. At the same time, the calf becomes dull and listless, exhibits a below-normal body temperature , experiences dehydration, and may pass bloody stools. Pneumonia, and death often follow.

There are many scour remedies on the market. I have yet, however, to find one that’ll work well after the disease has become at all advanced, and I have yet to find one that will nip scours in the bud as well as the “home remedy” we’ve used for fifteen years: Whenever I notice that a calf is passing looser-than-usual feces, I skip the next feeding of milk. In its place, I feed a fluid made by mixing three tablespoons of pectin in a cup of warm water.

Once the pectin finds its way to the animal’s digestive tract, it causes the stomach’s contents to jell and stops the cramping.

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What Are The Common Diseases The Cattle Industry Vaccinates For

Both beef and dairy operations have the same fundamental diseases that are a concern. The diseases are usually categorized by the system they affect.

Respiratory viruses

  • IBR – Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis – often referred to as red-nose, this virus causes massive upper respiratory inflammation. The virus also causes reproductive issues.
  • PI3 – Parainfluenza 3 – this common disease causes an upper respiratory infection and leads to secondary infections from other viruses and bacteria.
  • BRSV – Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus – This virus causes disease in the lower respiratory tract and can cause viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia.
  • BVD – Bovine Viral Diarrhea – BVD causes generalized immune suppression and leads to secondary infections from other viruses and bacteria. In addition to immune suppression, BVD can cause reproductive issues.

Respiratory bacteria

Reproductive viruses

  • IBR – Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis – IBR can cause infertility, abortions, and birth defects.
  • BVD – Bovine Viral Diarrhea – BVD virus can cause abortions and birth defects. Most importantly, the BVD virus can create persistently infected calves if the cow is exposed to BVD in a specific time of pregnancy.

Reproductive bacteria

Respiratory core – modified live vaccine – 5-way.

  • IBR
  • BVD Types I and II

Reproductive core

  • BVD Types I and II
  • Leptospirosis

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