Early vaccination of calves can enhance herd health and produce quality animals sought by feed yards, packers, and consumers. Dr. Daniel Cummings, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer-Ingelheim, says there are challenges calves can face leading up to weaning.


“One of the biggest challenges that we see is disease protection from colostrum is actually temporary. Once the protection from colostrum runs out or wanes, which can last from a few weeks to a month, we can see some disease from that point forward, so that’s one of the challenges we face. Calves during that period can face multiple challenges externally. You look at nutrition, dietary changes, castration, other disease challenges, overwhelming pathogens, transportation, weather challenges as well. Some of the stressors that I’ve mentioned during that period can cause immunosuppression, where it can suppress the immune system and that can certainly lead to an increased risk of disease.”

Cummings said the immunosuppression from stress can lead to increased risk of diseases like respiratory disease or bovine viral diarrhea virus. He talks about the advantages vaccinating calves early to help counteract those challenges.

“By doing that early on, we want to minimize the risk of disease, we can build that immune response, and we can certainly vaccinate calves. Cattles as young as five to six weeks of age can be immunized against specific pathogens like BVD, Bovine Viral Diarrhea, or BRSV, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and those are two of the viruses that we see commonly in pre-weaning calves, so we can effectively immunize and protect against those two viral pathogens and others by vaccinating at an early age”

Implementing a calfhood vaccination program is a cost-effective strategy for producers

“Bovine Respiratory Disease, or pneumonia, cost producers more than $640 million annually, and this is due to treatment costs, labor costs, reduced performance, and even reduced feed efficiencies. So, if we consider strategies to prevent disease, and by doing so through calfhood vaccinations, we can certainly have an impact on the profitability of an operation.”

Preventing disease in calves will set a positive foundation for the future of an entire herd

"Disease early on in life may result in reduced conception rates. Again, if we look at that, prevention is key, and understanding that if we can prevent disease through a cost-effective strategy such as calfhood vaccination, that’ll lower the overall impact of disease for producers from a cost perspective. Proper vaccination can help ensure calves perform their best on your operation and in future production stages. And finally, we always recommend you work with a veterinarian to develop a vaccination program. They’re going to be your expert for your herd health program.”

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