I came across this article written by Dr. Steve Hendrick from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. Dr Hendrick does and excellent job in explaining the importance of a vaccination program in your beef herd. Enjoy the article!!

Vaccination of Your Beef Herd- Your Animal Health Insurance Plan:

Dr. Steve Hendrick, DVM, DVSc, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon, SK

When it comes to fire insurance, we all hope that we don’t have to make use of it. However, when disaster strikes it’s always good to be protected. The same is true in your beef herd. Vaccination is simply a method of controlled disease exposure that allows your herd to maintain its immunity and prevent a major disease wreck. A pre-breeding vaccination strategy is important for maximizing reproductive performance and minimizing calf losses.

Blackleg or clostridial vaccines (7 or 8-way) are a mainstay in western Canada because these diseases are common and the vaccines are cheap and effective. The clostridial bacteria survive in the soil for many years as spores and grazing animals are continuously exposed. Calves, often your biggest and best, are most commonly affected. Calves are best vaccinated at branding or just before turnout to summer pasture. Replacement heifers are commonly given a dose of Blackleg vaccine just prior to turnout to breeding as a yearling. Cows and bulls are much less susceptible to developing clostridial diseases, but it is advisable to booster either annually or every couple of years. A blackleg booster vaccine at the time of scours vaccination should help enrich the colostrum and may better protect the young calf.

Another disease of concern is Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD). This virus can cause abortion, infertility, birth defects, pneumonia, scours, and death. BVD is maintained in beef herds through persistently infected (PI) calves. These PI calves are made when an unprotected cow is infected with BVD during the first trimester of pregnancy. These calves are life-long carriers continuously shed large amounts of BVD in their manure, saliva, and skin. Vaccination of the cow herd, biosecurity, and testing and removal of PI calves are the best means of eliminating BVD from your herd. In terms of vaccination, the use of a modified-live vaccine prior to breeding is the best way to ensure maximum protection in your cows and the least risk of developing future PI calves. Vaccinate bulls at the same time because BVD can be passed in semen.

Other optional pre-breeding vaccines to consider include vibrio, lepto and anthrax. For each of these vaccines, herds need to consider the level of risk that these diseases present.

Vibrio is a sexually transmitted disease of cattle and is of greatest risk for herds using communal grazing, or those purchasing mature bulls with prior breeding experience. Vibrio is hard to diagnose

and is best prevented through the use of an oil-based vibrio vaccine given to cows and bulls just prior to breeding. Lepto is a bacterial cause of late-pregnancy abortion (6-9 months) that is passed in the urine of several different hosts (skunks, deer, etc). Vaccinating for lepto is only recommended in herds that have previously confirmed abortions to the disease.

Anthrax is similar to Blackleg in that it survives for decades in the soil as a spore. Anthrax is not spread like most other infectious diseases we deal with. The greatest risk for exposure to anthrax in your cattle herd occurs in years that are particularly wet in the spring and then dry over the summer. If you or your neighbours have experienced this disease in recent past, you are at more risk again in the future.

Vaccination is just one key component to your animal health program and is best discussed with your local veterinarian that is more aware of the disease risks present in your area.