Vaccinations are a valuable tool when working to improve your herd’s health.  Every year vaccine manufacturers improve their product lines to match the ever changing health problems faced by today’s dairy and beef producers.  They invest millions of dollars in research, field studies, and lab testing to bring to market the next best product.  But these products will never be effective if misused, mishandled, or misunderstood.  The greatest most elaborate vaccine on the market can be a complete waste of your hard earned dollars if it is given at the wrong time or to an animal unable to utilize it properly.  Following are some steps you can take to make your vaccine protocol as effective as it can be.

The number one rule when beginning a vaccination program is…Talk to your veterinarian!!!  Only your personal veterinarian can properly assess you herd’s needs and recommend the proper vaccine(s).  It can be very reckless and costly to use a vaccination protocol from a neighboring herd or one found in some publication not written for your animals.  Just because the next door neighbors herd is having success with a certain protocol does not mean it will work for yours as your operation may be facing a completely different set of problems than they are.  Also different parts of the country with varying climates and pest problems all require individual protocols written specifically for them.  Lastly your personal veterinarian knows your animals, your management style, and any other medications/supplements you are using all of which may influence which vaccinations are best for you.

Another important thing to consider before beginning a vaccination protocol is the health of the animal.  Never vaccinate and animal with a compromised immune system.  Vaccines work by introducing a controlled/altered disease-causing organism to the animal in the form of an antigen.  This in turn stimulates the animal to create specific anti bodies in order to recognize the disease and deal with it.  But for any of this to work the animals immune system must be fully functioning.  If it isn’t you risk increased odds of infection, allergic reaction, and potentially death.  At the very least you will not be getting the most of your vaccine which amounts to wasted money.  Each animal should be examined individually before administering the vaccine to ensure they should be treated; some quick things to look for include:

• Dehydration (sunken eyes, skin does not snap back when pinched)

• Diarrhea/scours

• Heat Stress (Excessive panting, lethargy)

• Energy (animal should be alert, not hanging its head and moving slowly)

If the animal is showing signs of dehydration, diarrhea, or heat stress you should administer oral electrolytes or possibly IV therapy until the symptoms pass before you vaccinate.  Animals low on energy can be treated with oral energy products such as Power Punch.  Energy drenches can increase energy levels very quickly; utilizing Power Punch 6-12 hours before vaccination has shown very positive results.  This is due to the animal’s immune system requiring high amounts of energy; boosted energy means a boosted immune system.  Probiotics are also beneficial prior to vaccinating as these products have been known to stimulate immune function by inhibiting pathogenic bacteria and promoting beneficial bacteria in the gut.  A healthy intestine equals a healthier animal.

Once you have met with your veterinarian, chosen which vaccines to use, and assessed your herd’s health status, you can move forward and begin vaccinating.  Here are some tips to make this process smooth and effective.  The less stress you cause the animals the better your results will be.

• Have enough help to move/contain your animals

• Set up area ahead of time to be as efficient as possible

• Keep accurate records of animal ID’s, vaccines given, EST…

You must also handle and use your vaccinations properly and make sure that you only purchase vaccines from reputable sources.  Follow these guidelines when handling your vaccines:

• Read and follow directions for specific product use

• If two doses are recommended – give two doses!!  Otherwise they will do very little for the animal

• Calves vaccinated under 6 months will usually require another one after 6 months of age

• Refrigerate and store vaccines as directed on the label.  Use a cooler with ice to protect vaccines while they are out of the fridge

• Mix only the amount of vaccine you will use within an hour

• Speak with your veterinarian or the products manufacturer with any questions you have before use

No vaccine works 100% of the time on 100% of the animals treated, but by following directions and working closely with your veterinarian, you can get the most out of your product and increase your herd’s overall immune status.