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Vaccinating calves

Influence how they respond to disease in the future

When calves are born and nurse from their mother, they get all the antibodies they need from her. But when they get to be around two-to-three months old, that protection starts diminishing and the calves have to build their own immunities. A vaccination program can help protect them until weaning age.

Tony Moravec is a veterinarian with Merial. He says depending on what part of the country you live in, your calves could be exposed to a number of things.  

"A number of different viral diseases like parainfluenza virus, BRSV, BVD, those are respiratory bugs in nature, as well as some gastrointestinal tract bugs in nature. Also, if we’re dealing with things like blackleg clostridial diseases, those are bacterial in nature," says Moravec. "That’s a good time to give those vaccines as well."

Moravec encourages producers to have what he calls “pre-conditioning protocol” set up with a local veterinarian. They will know what the prevalent diseases and exposure risks are in your area.

"To get their immune system ready to be weaned from mom and thrive, they really need to vaccinate in the spring prior to turnout, a vaccine dose 45-to-60 days prior to weaning, and then a booster 3-to-4-weeks after that one," says Moravec. "So three vaccines, that should get the immune system robust so we have a healthy animal that’s weaned, that’s going to thrive wherever it goes from there."

Moravec also recommends a parasite control protocol at the same time, because parasites affect the immune system. It will also help the vaccines work better.

No vaccine is 100% effective on 100% of the calves vaccinated. But combined with good management practices, the disease resistance of each animal will strengthen the immunity of the herd.

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