Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Improving calf vaccination response

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

For many producers, it’s nearly time for the second round of shots for calves prior to their fall weaning or shipping date.   When vaccinating, we want to make sure we can do everything possible to obtain a good response from the vaccine both for the calf’s future health and to ensure that our money spent on vaccine is effective. 
By gathering and working cattle efficiently and in a low-stress
manner, vaccine response is improved.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
The animal’s immune response to receiving a vaccination can be impacted by a multitude of factors.  Typically, human error, host response, and factors related to the vaccine are the most common causes of vaccine failure. 
If cattle have not been stressed, human error is most likely to be the cause of vaccine failure.  To minimize human error, always read and follow product label instructions to ensure the correct dosage and how to administer the product.  Be sure to never mix two products together in the same syringe and be careful to keep disinfectants out of the syringe barrel.  Residues of disinfectants left in the syringe barrel can break down modified live vaccines.  Vaccine barrels should be cleaned with water that has been heated to 180 degrees or higher. 
The animal’s ability to respond to a vaccine is affected by their plane of nutrition (including their mineral program), clinical infections, exposure to stress, a contaminated environment, etc.  Cattle that are handled in a low-stress manner respond better to vaccinations.   For example, by vaccinating calves two to four weeks prior to weaning, they are under much less stress as they are still on the cow, and therefore respond better to the vaccination compared to if they received the vaccination while being they were being weaned and under much more stress.  By working cattle in a calm and efficient manner, we can minimize an animal’s stress and therefore improve their potential response to the vaccine.
Vaccine should be kept in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. 
Photo by Michael Thomas, from
Third, improper vaccine storage can also lead to vaccination failure.  Vaccine should be stored at 40 to 50 degrees F and out of the direct sunlight or freezing temperatures.  Vaccine should be kept in an insulated cooler until it’s ready to be used.  By poking holes in a Styrofoam cooler, there can easily be a way to store vaccines in a cool, dark location while working calves.  Modified live vaccines must be used within an hour after the bottle has been opened, so make sure everything is in place before mixing vaccine. 
Also, remember to never re-enter a clean vaccine bottle with a dirty needle.  Any bent, dull, damaged, or contaminated needles need to be changed immediately, and needles should be changed every 10 to 15 head.  Each syringe should be labeled, and vaccines administered with the proper sized needle.  There should never be more than 10 cc administered per injection site, and multiple injections should be spaced at least 2 to 4 inches apart on the animal.  All injections should be given in front of the shoulder in the neck.
Lastly, always consult your veterinarian for formulating a complete herd health protocol, and have a great fall cattle working season!

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