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News for Hooves & Snouts Too! Large Animal Vaccinations

As part of the veterinary industry, I feel we have failed our livestock owners in the area of preventive plans. We should be helping cattle producers stay on top of their preventive vaccination plans to help safeguard their investment a lot more than we have been. What should your cows receive annually for vaccinations?  What vaccinations do calves really need, and when?  Last month I shared about preventive plans for dogs and cats; this month I want to talk about preventive plans for cattle.

Before I came to Jarrell, I went on a call for several cows that had aborted their calves, late term. The owner had not vaccinated or dewormed the cows for a few years, and calves only got a single 8-way Black Leg shot before going to sale. The list of differentials for this case is long, and the owner did not see the value in investigating further. A few weeks later, more cows aborted, so I went out again to try to figure out what was going on. I drew blood on the cows that aborted and determined that they were positive for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD). This is a virus that can cause abortions—usually early—but can also cause respiratory disease and diarrhea. If a cow is infected with this at the right stage in her pregnancy, the fetus she is carrying can become a persistently infected (PI) calf that recognizes this virus as “normal” and will not clear it from its body. This calf will infect all the other cattle in the herd for as long as it lives. Since this owner had a BVD positive herd, we needed to identify all the positive animals and cull them. Most of the cows were positive, and because this family had a small herd, selling these cows was tough on them both financially and emotionally (all the cows had names). This event stirred me to implement a new vaccination plan for livestock.

Obviously, I recommend cattle be vaccinated against BVD every year. I also recommend protecting against infectious bovine rhinitis (IBR). This is a disease that can cause later term abortions in cows, respiratory disease in calves, or pink eye.  Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) is another respiratory disease that is mainly a calf problem, but every cow should get this vaccine yearly, as well.  Parainfluenza (PI3) is a virus that is part of the respiratory disease complex that leads to pneumonia, and should be included in the vaccine plan.

Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of wildlife, and can infect dogs, pigs, and humans, as well.  Lepto can cause abortions, still births and weak calves.

Another large group of diseases are the “Black-Leg diseases”. These are clostridial diseases that cause an array of problems from muscle disease to liver and intestinal problems. You should protect your cows from this group every year.

This list of diseases is long, and you might be anxious about what it would take to implement a vaccination plan like this. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. CattleMaster Gold + L5 protects your cows and calves from IBR, BVD, BRSV, PI3 and five types of leptospirosis in a single shot. I recommend this every year prior to breeding to make sure you miss out on PI calves; however, the vaccine is safe for any cow or calf at any stage of life. Ideally, I’d give CMG + L5 to calves at three months and then again at weaning, but one shot at weaning is acceptable.

I also recommend One Shot Ultra 8 to prevent clostridial diseases. This shot should be boostered four weeks after the initial shot, and cows at increased risk for exposure should be re-vaccinated every six months. At a minimum, I recommend annual immunization; calves at weaning should also get this shot.

My wife and I are passionate about our cattle. We have planned and dreamed of the day we could have our mamas calve out, sell the calves, and start all over again. I’m sure many of you can relate to the feeling of satisfaction, pride and fondness for the livestock you raise. I hope this helps someone protect their investment and avoid some of those nasty diseases that can devastate a herd. 

After graduating from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Carlton served four years in the United States Army as a Veterinary Corps Officer. He honed his clinical skill set working on these unique animal populations, and now brings that special knowledge to the community at Jarrell Animal Hospital. Dr. Carlton is a member of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Equine Practitioners, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, and he continues to serve in the United States Army Reserve.

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