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Vaccines Are Big Component of Herd Health or Production Medicine Programs

Dairy Pipeline: January 1998

by Tom L. Bailey
Dairy Production Medicine
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Vet Medicine
Virginia Tech

Vaccines are a big component of our herd health or production medicine programs on dairies. However, on too many farms we see diseases that could be prevented with the use of vaccines or diseases that are occurring despite vaccination use. In this Pipeline article, I would like to address common problems with the use of vaccines and why disease may occur in spite of vaccine use.

  1. Obtain information from sources familiar with diseases in your area, disease incidence on your farm and the correct administration of vaccines. I would not consult a banker to obtain information on the management of alfalfa. Yet too often we seek information on disease prevention from sources other than individuals familiar with disease and vaccine use. Consult your veterinarian.

  2. Purchase your vaccines from a reputable source. You must decide, "will a cheaper vaccine provide optimal protection in my herd or am I willing to pay a few cents more for a quality vaccine and information". Remember all vaccines are not created equal and not all vaccines will provide optimal protection. No one vaccine fits all programs.

  3. Follow label directions: Some vaccines require a booster at a certain time interval following the initial dose to obtain optimal protection. When this second dose is not given, the protection or immunity is minimal or nonexistent.

  4. Follow label directions: Vaccines should stay at refrigerated temperatures. If vaccines arrive through mail order, did they rest on a warm dock or in a freight truck for 8 to 10 hours, rendering the vaccine useless. Check the contents upon receipt to insure the vaccine was at refrigerator temperature during shipment.

  5. Do not mix more vaccine than you can use in approximately 15 minutes and keep the remainder at refrigerator temperatures.

  6. When using modified live vaccines, discard any remainder that is not used immediately.

  7. Always use a sterile needle to carry the diluent or "water" to the "cake". Never use a needle to mix vaccine that was used to administer a vaccine to a previous animal. The entire contents of the vaccine bottle may become contaminated.

  8. Target vaccines to a specific time when the disease incidence is likely to occur. For example, the J5 vaccine is used to decrease the severity of Coliform mastitis. Vaccinating after freshening is like "closing the gate after the cows are out". Most coliform mastitis cases occur at freshening or within 2 to 3 weeks of freshening. Vaccinate during the dry period, with the final dose at least 3 weeks prior to freshening. Cows require 2 to 3 weeks to obtain maximum immunity or protection after vaccination, you do not get immediate results, it takes time.

  9. Record the animals that receive vaccinations. Often we vaccinate at freshening, but the individual that calves "out of synch" does not get vaccinated until others freshen because we do not want to "mix 5 doses and throw out 4". Too often this cow "slips through the cracks" without being vaccinated.

  10. Vaccinations are not a substitute for poor management. Animals will respond with better protection or immunity in herds that are well managed, with complete herd health programs, sound nutrition, and minimal stress.

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