Vaccination Protocol Considerations

Published on Tue, 07/10/2018 - 2:30pm

 Vaccination Protocol Considerations

 By Michael Cox

‘An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure,’ is an expression that rings true for animal health. As dairymen, we are all too familiar with the lost time and stress a disease outbreak in the herd can create for ourselves and the farm team. Being proactive and assessing what disease risks are troublesome to your farm is time well spent. Thanks to modern medicine, many animal health diseases are now almost fully preventable through using a comprehensive and properly administered vaccination program. In this article, we will look at some of the considerations involved in designing a robust vaccination protocol to help protect both your herd and the farm team from the stresses of poor animal health.

Consulting with your veterinarian and/or local extension officer is an important first step to designing a vaccination schedule. With such a myriad of different vaccines available on the market nowadays, producers need to plan out how and when certain vaccines will be administered to different groups of cows. Advice from your veterinarian can help mitigate issues such as ‘over-stacking’ vaccines caused by jabbing too many vaccines on the same day.

Vaccines can work wonders in preventing illnesses, but their success relies on administration at the optimum time to animals at different stages of the lactation and dry periods. Advice from University of Missouri Extension suggests that the dry period is perhaps the most convenient and effective time to vaccinate adult cows. Vaccinating during the early dry period will ensure that all cows are being targeted at the same stage of the production cycle. This has several benefits; no loss of milk production will occur as cows are dry, all cows in the group can be given booster vaccines at the same time near the end of the dry period, immunoglobin levels in colostrum will be increased due to cows reacting to the vaccine and strong immunity will be present in the following lactation and breeding periods.

Common vaccines
Most veterinarians will suggest a base vaccination protocol to target the most common and potentially threatening diseases. These include bovine virus diarrhea (BVD), leptospirosis, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and para-influenza (PI3). While it is beneficial to have these vaccines administered pre-breeding, care should be taken to ensure that vaccine reactions do not interfere with breeding performance. For example, if using a Modified Live Vaccine for
IBR, the full immunization program must be complete at least one month prior to breeding, as normal ovary and follicle development will be disrupted while the cow responds to the vaccine. It is also crucial to check if vaccines can be given to pregnant or open cows, as some vaccines can create abortion risks in heavily pregnant cows.

Farm Specific vaccines
Once the base level of common disease risks has been accounted for, vaccination protocols should aim to target farm-specific challenges. For some farms that may include vaccines for scours caused by rotavirus, salmonella or coronavirus. Clostridial diseases, pinkeye, E-Coli mastitis and mycoplasma bovis are just several other disease risks that may or may not require vaccination protection on individual farms.

Autogenous vaccines are another option for serious cases of disease outbreaks on individual farms. Producers can work with their veterinarians to develop a specific, special autogenous vaccine to combat a particularly challenging disease. For example, culture samples from a farm suffering Mycoplasma bovis or pinkeye outbreaks can be used to develop a unique vaccine solely for use to target the disease strain on that specific farm. As this type of vaccine is only available for special cases, there is a large amount of protocol and regulations to follow while the vaccine is cultured and developed, so close consultation with a good veterinary practice will be crucial.

South Dakota State University Extension suggests that implementing an inactive booster vaccine after an initial modified live vaccine shot can offer better herd immunity compared to two shots of modified live vaccine. The purpose of the booster is to ‘top-up’ the immunity in
animals that had a poor response to the initial shot. For animals that responded well to the initial shot, the booster will add little further improvement. However, the overall herd immunity will be raised significantly by the use of booster vaccines.
Regardless of what protocol is developed and implemented, dairymen should aim to avoid ‘procedural slip’. In other words, it is vital that the vaccination protocol is actually correctly followed and implemented by the people doing the hands-on work. Having a wonderful protocol printed off in the office is of little use if the farm team are not on the same page, literally. The best possible herd immunization levels will only be achieved when all steps along the way are completed at the correct time and sequence by staff.