By Peggy Joseph-Potter RN, BSN, MHA

Vaccinations are one of the basic building blocks for a healthy herd. The implementation of a routine program can simplify your life and prevent poor outcomes including costly veterinary visits and animal demise in the future. While most experienced breeders may perform their own vaccinations, it is hoped this article will provide some additional insight for both the new and veteran breeder.
Types of Vaccine
There are two general categories of vaccines— live products and killed products. Modified-live IBR, BVD, PI3 and Bangs are examples of live products. These vaccines are sensitive to light, disinfectants, and heat, so boil needles and syringes and do not use chemical disinfectants. Do not reconstitute these vaccines more than 1 hour before use. Protect them from sunlight and keep them cool. (An ice pack and towel covered bucket can accomplish both and are usually readily available.)

Killed vaccine examples are blackleg, malignant edema, red water, enterotoxaemia, black disease, and leptospirosis. These vaccines are less sensitive, and you can use chemical disinfectants in your needles and syringes; however they should also be kept cool, and protected from sunlight.

Vaccines give longer immunity than serums or antitoxins but usually do not protect until about 2 weeks after administration. Live vaccines sometimes give better and longer-lasting immunity than killed products. Serums or antitoxins protect for only about 2 weeks, but do protect as soon as administered.

When using modified-live IBR and BVD vaccines, give them separately (2 weeks apart) to prevent calves from getting sick from the vaccine. Be cautious of using ML-BVD vaccine in a previously BVD-exposed herd or an unvaccinated pregnant cow. Killed vaccines give different lengths of immunity. Some, such as redwater, need to be repeated every 6 months or more often in severely infected areas; others only need an annual booster. Follow the product directions and consult your veterinarian for questions regarding vaccine usage.

Maternal Immunity

Calves are born with very limited resistance against infectious diseases. Calves receive temporary resistance through the transfer of maternal antibodies from the cow to the calf via the first milk or colostrum. Cows develop specific resistance against an organism only by vaccination or contracting the disease itself. When the cow produces antibodies against a disease this immunity is passed to the calf via the colostrum; this form of resistance is only effective for about 4-5 months depending on the amount
produced by the cow and the amount absorbed by the calf’s gut. This important factor demonstrates the need to vaccinate calves at about this age or at least two weeks prior to weaning. We administer TSV-2 Intranasal to our newborn calves; this MLV provides protection against IBR-PI3 for approximately six months or until weaning vaccinations are provided.

Handling the Vaccine:

  • Read all label directions carefully prior to using any vaccine.
  • During use, keep vaccine cool and out of sunlight.
  • When mixing modified live virus vaccines, mix enough for two hours or less.
  • Use transfer needles for mixing modified live virus vaccines.
  • Shake bottles well each time a syringe is filled.
  • Never combine vaccines in one syringe if not packaged as a combination vaccine

Clean syringes are important:

  • Clean syringes after each use.
  • Never use disinfectants in modified live virus vaccine syringes.
  • Use sterile or boiling water to clean syringes.
  • Use 1/2 to 3/4 inch, 16-gauge or smaller needles for Sub-Q injections.
  • Use 1 to 1 1/2 inch, 16-gauge or smaller needles for intramuscular injections.
  • Change needles every 10 to 15 animals or when bent, burred, or dull.
  • Never enter a bottle of vaccine with a used or dirty needle.

Giving the injection:

  • Give all injections in front of the shoulder in middle neck region.
  • Give all injections Sub-Q unless the product label specifies it must be given intramuscularly.
  • Use tent technique for Sub-Q injections.
  • Vary injection sites between both sides of the neck.
  • Remove air from the syringe prior to injecting vaccine.
  • Avoid giving intramuscular injections in the nuchal ligament, the large ligament at top of neck.
  • Keep Epinephrine on hand for management of allergic reactions.
  • Record the date vaccines are given, animal identification numbers, and if multiple vaccines are given, the site of each injection should be documented.

You may also want to record the serial and/or lot numbers and vaccine expiration dates. This will save time should a vaccine-related problem occur in the future. Vaccines are more effective against some diseases than others. No vaccine is 100 percent effective as effectiveness depends on conditions such as the animal’s age, passive immunity at time of vaccination, stress level, diseases, and other factors that are not fully understood. Cattle should be fever-free and demonstrate no obvious signs or symptoms of illness at the time of injection in order to prevent vaccine-related illness.

This year we combined our annual vaccination program with our hoof trimming, inspection, and insecticide application. Coordination and preparation on our behalf was mandatory however we feel it definitely reduced the stress on the animals and ourselves. With the help of our trimmer, all injections were given safely while each animal was
secured within the chute. This is an ideal time to perform these tasks for the novice breeder or for those who do not have access to their own chute.

Boehringer Ingelheim. (2007). Vaccine Basicis Retrieved
August 24, 2009, from Boehringer Ingleheim, Vetmedica,
Lincoln, D. S. (n.d.). Beef Cattle Handbook-Cattle Vaccines
and their uses. Retrieved from Iowa Beef Center.
Powell, J., Jones, S., Gadeberry, S., & and Troxel, T.
(n.d.). Beef Cattle Herd Health Vaccination Schedule.
Retrieved August 24, 2009, from University of Arkansas,
Agricultural Extension.

Peggy and her husband, Bob Potter, own and operate
PJ Ranch LLC in Winton, California where she serves as
the Vice President of Animal Health. They have been
Miniature Hereford owners and active participants in the
MHBA since 2002. She is also employed as a critical care
nurse for a local medical center.
Information contained in this article is for general
information purposes only. Contact your local vet for
specific recommendations, especially when using live
or modified live vaccines.

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