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What Vaccinations Do Newborn Calves Need

Should You Vaccinate Very Young Calves

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In the 2-week old calf, there are two things you need to be concerned about. One is age, the other is colostrum intake. Typically, even in a calf that got no colostrum , the response for making antibodies is not great under 3 weeks of age. If they have higher levels of maternal antibodies than the older calves, they also may not respond , says Chris Chase, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, South Dakota State University.

We did a study in very young calves . We vaccinated them at that age, then came back seven months later and challenged them. From a statistical standpoint it worked, but from a production standpoint I dont think producers would be very excited about it because in the control group, 80% of them got sick and in the vaccinated group, 20% of them got sick. If a person waits until those calves are 3 to 4 weeks of age, less than 5% of the vaccinates would get sick, he explains.

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Age at vaccination is a big factor, but it all goes back to individual situations. If someone is having trouble with summer pneumonia, wed have to say the vaccine at a young age probably doesnt hurt them, but how much good it actually does those calves may be minimal.

Then you will probably be looking at an autogenous vaccine , says Chase.

Vaccinate For Blackleg In Cattle

As grass becomes sparse under the summer sun, the risk of Blackleg grows, according Mark Keaton, Baxter Bulletin.

With the dry conditions that cattlemen are dealing with, ranchers need to be aware of blackleg, writes Mark Keaton.

There were two confirmed cattle deaths last week from blackleg one in Lonoke County and the other in Sebastian County.

When pastures start to get short, cattle will pick up small particles of soil as they graze. Blackleg is from soil-borne organisms. Most cow-calf producers vaccinate for blackleg.

* “If the second vaccination is not given, the calf is not protected against blackleg and is susceptible to the disease.”

They, however, do not follow labeled instructions. Most blackleg vaccines require two shots 4-6 weeks apart.

Most producers do not gather the cattle for the second shot. If the second vaccination is not given, the calf is not protected against blackleg and is susceptible to the disease.

Outbreaks of blackleg in the past have occurred in cattle on farms in which recent excavations have occurred, which suggests that disturbance of soil may activate latent spores. Commonly, the animals that contract blackleg are of the beef breeds, in excellent health, gaining weight and usually the best animals of their group.

Usually, onset is sudden and a few cattle may be found dead without premonitory signs. Acute lameness and marked depression are common.

Some Common Illnesses Of Cattle

It goes without saying that when you acquire your first bottle calf, you should check with your county agent or veterinarian to determine which vaccines are recommended for cattle in your area … then have your calf vaccinated. This will take care of most of the important, life-threatening illnesses with which your calf may come in contact.

Unfortunately for the small holder, there are at least as many cattle ailments for which no vaccine exists as there are illnesses of the “immunizable” type. The following represent some of the more common “non-immunizable” illnesses that can afflict cattle of all ages.

Colds: I find that if one of my calves gets a runny nose or shows any other signs of a cold, a scaled-up dose of common aspirin and a shot of Combiotic will usually knock the infection right out. In addition, if the animal has the chills and is shivering, I fix him a warm toddy consisting of ¼ cup of whiskey, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of honey, and 1/8 of a teaspoon of powdered A and D vitamins mixed in 1 cup of warm water.

Hardware Disease: It’s a fact: If nuts, bolts, nails, staples, and other small metallic objects are left around, they’ll often disappear into a calf’s stomach. This in turn gives rise to an illness known as “hardware disease,” the symptoms of which include pain and a lack of appetite that’s not accompanied by distension of the stomach.

Originally Published: March/April 1978

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Glossary Of Conditions And Terms

Anaplasmosis. An often fatal infectious disease of cattle caused by a microscopic parasite of red blood cells, spread by ticks or horsefly bites or by reusing needles or instruments between animals. A vaccine is available in some states with a conditional USDA license, but unless the risk is high, a routine vaccination for anaplasmosis is not recommended.

Bacterin. A bacterial vaccine.

BRSV . A virus that can cause severe, acute respiratory disease, especially in young cattle.

BVD . A disease caused by bovine viral diarrhea virus , resulting in numerous problems, such as damage to the digestive and immune systems, pneumonia, abortions, calf deformities, and others. Incomplete vaccination programs, such as those omitting a needed booster vaccination, have led to BVD outbreaks in some herds.

Blackleg. A highly fatal disease of young cattle caused by one type of Clostridium bacteria. See Clostridial disease.

Brucellosis. An infection resulting in abortion in females and inflammation and damage to the testicles in males, caused by the bacterium Brucella abortus. Also known as Bangs disease. See Calfhood vaccination.

Calfhood vaccination . Vaccination against Brucella abortus for heifers between approximately 4 and 10 months old . Calfhood vaccination must be administered by a federally accredited veterinarian . Calfhood vaccination against Brucella abortus is not mandatory in most states.

PI3 . A virus that can cause respiratory disease.

Nasal Vaccines Recommended For Newborn Calves

5ml Adjustable Injector Livestock Pet Vaccine Syringe ...

Using nasal vaccines on newborn calves can be good protection, particularly if maternal antibodies might be low, says a bovine veterinarian.

Dr. Nathan Erickson, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewans Western College of Veterinary Medicine, said nasal vaccine use on neonatal calves those newborn to three months old can head off various respiratory diseases.

Prior to nursing, the calves really do not have much in terms of immune response, Erickson said during a webinar organized by the Beef Cattle Research Council.

Not providing or having access to adequate colostrum can result in failure of passive transfer of maternal immunity to a newborn calf.

Cows and heifers vaccinated on a regular basis likely have adequate antibodies in their colostrum. In that case, maternal antibodies can interfere or block response to systemic vaccines administered to newborn calves.

Nasal vaccines bypass that effect, act directly at the site of infection and provide rapid disease control, said Erickson. However, the effects dont last as long as systemic vaccines.

Nasally applied or mucosal vaccines prime the immune tissue in surface layers, stimulating different types of antibodies than occur with systemic vaccines, and a more rapid response occurs.

We do get some priming of systemic immunity as well but not to the same level as an injectable vaccine would have.

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However, there are two types of immunity. One is cell mediated there are some immune cells that are very non-specific and they clean up whatever foreign material they see. This is the first part of the immune system that develops and is very important for most of the diseases the calf faces. We believe there is probably an increase in this type of immunity with early vaccination, even though we might not see a big increase in titres or antibody response. Thats more secondary. We feel that even if these calves do get exposed to the disease, they at least have good cell-mediated immunity from the vaccine. We feel this is very important for some of the viral infections anyway. This is why I feel OK about switching a couple of these herds to vaccinating at a younger age. If the calves are being branded at a later age, however, I still recommend vaccinating at branding time, he says.

It is important to work with your veterinarian, and come up with a plan based on what has worked in the past for your herd, and what diseases you have in the herd. We see some baby calf pneumonia that probably isnt Pasteurella. Its probably BRSV or some other virus, rather than bacterial. If youve worked with your veterinarian and made a diagnosis, you can be more specific about which vaccine you choose, he explains.

Keeping calves healthy is not always easy because there can be so many factors involved.

For More On This Topic See The Following Publications:

B-222: Cattle Vaccination and Immunity

Original authors: John Wenzel, Extension Veterinarian Clay P. Mathis, Extension Livestock Specialist and Boone Carter, Extension Associate.

John C. Wenzel is the Extension veterinarian in the Extension Animal Sciences and Natural Resources department at NMSU. He earned his B.S. from NMSU and his DVM from Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. His work focuses on cow/calf medicine and preventative health programs for livestock producers in southwestern New Mexico.

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian for specific health program recommendations and for guidance on choosing pharmaceutical products, especially when using modified-live products. Always follow label directions and Beef Quality Assurance guidelines when processing calves.

To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences on the World Wide Web at aces.nmsu.edu

Contents of publications may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. For permission to use publications for other purposes, contact or the authors listed on the publication.

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

Revised May 2015

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Your Babys First Shot

Shortly after birth, your baby should receive the first dose of the vaccine to help protect against the following disease:

All babies should get the first shot of hepatitis B vaccine within first 12 hours after birth.

This shot acts as a safety net, reducing the risk of getting the disease from you or family members who may not know they are infected with hepatitis B.

If you have hepatitis B, theres additional medicine that can help protect your newborn against hepatitis B its called hepatitis B immune globin . HBIG gives your babys body extra help to fight the virus as soon as your baby is born.

New Intranasal Vaccines Offer Calves Combined Protection

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There has been considerable research into intranasal vaccines and how they can improve the health of the Canadian cattle herd, especially calves.

Those of us who have been around awhile can remember the first intranasal vaccines for IBR that were safe to give pregnant cows to prevent abortions from the virus.

At one time we gave them to mature cows in old chutes with poor head restraints, and it was a painstaking chore. Now cows are given killed vaccines or modified live vaccines for IBR before being bred.

Intranasals have come a long way since those early days and are more often used on very young calves or cattle entering feedlots where quick immunity is necessary.

There are two intranasal products used in young calves primarily to prevent respiratory disease. Inforce contains the viruses IBR PI3 BRSV and the other contains two of the bacteria involved in bovine respiratory disease, Mannheimia hemolytica and Pasteurella multocida.

Some producers use the viral intranasal vaccine and others are more comfortable using the bacterial product. Some have used two separate intranasal shots to help prevent the pneumonia that is common in a calfs first few months.

One company has combined these two products in one formulation that is given in one nostril. Intranasal vaccines bypass any interference from colostrum and give pretty good immunity in only a few days.

As with any vaccine, discuss it with a veterinarian to make the best selection.

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Give Newborn Calves A Leg Up From Day One

Calving season can be one of the most exhausting, stressful, labor-intensive times of year, but its also rewarding. Create and implement a herd health plan appropriate for the operation to minimize stress for yourself, your workers, and the cattle. A strong HHP ensures that all cattle are raised in the best conditions and health, in turn improving the efficiency and economics for the cattle operation.

So how do you get off on the right foot? By giving the newborns a leg-up from the moment they are born.

The University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension and Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance provides some guidelines to keep your herd healthy this calving season.


Young calves birth to three months of age need vaccinations to stay healthy and productive. The Nebraska BQA and Nebraska Extension recommend that the core vaccination program includes:

-4-way IBR

-2-way Pasteurella

-4/7-way Clostridial

However, that may not be the best protocol for your area. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian for the best plan for your herd based on your part of the country.


The benefits of castration reach far beyond unwanted reproduction. Castrating cattle reduces aggression and injuries to other animals as well as handlers.


Again, speak with a veterinarian about which option is best for your cattle and operation.

Be sure castrated or implanted calves are allowed to heal prior to transport of any kind.



Preconditioning plan

Vaccinate Pregnant Cows Replacement Heifers Bulls

Unborn and nursing calves are protected against diseases by immunizing pregnant cows and pregnant replacement heifers during the last trimester of pregnancy. A cow herd that calves year around is vaccinated routinely every 6 months. Bulls and replacement heifers are vaccinated before introduction into the herd.

These immunizations properly use noninfectious vaccines of various types: killed, subunit, inactivated toxins or intramuscular, temperature sensitive, modified live.

Stress at the time of calving reduces resistance to disease. Infectious microorganisms of bovine respiratory disease can break out of dormancy and be shed. However, the active immunity provided by regular vaccinations is expected to suppress shedding of disease agents from the calving cows to the nurturing calves of the current years calf crop. The active immunity also provides protection for the following years calf crop against abortion diseases.

Immunized cows provide passive immunity to calves through the colostrum . Calves are protected until 2 to 3 months of age against nursing calf diseases. Passive immunity is expected to minimize infection and shedding of disease agents and prevent development of sickness and death. Susceptible baby calves are those that do not receive an adequate amount of good-quality colostrum during the first 24 hours after birth.

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Recommended Vaccination Schedules For A Comprehensive Dairy Herd Health Program

Feeding practices, management styles, health care programs, and facilities vary greatly among dairy operations. Because of this, the degrees of stress, the patterns of disease resistance, and pathogen exposure are variable and unique to each operation. Consequently, there is no one size fits all vaccination program, but each program must be tailor-made to fit the individual needs of each dairy.

Immunization is a necessary aid to limit or prevent disease in cattle due to common agents, such as Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis virus, Parainfluenza-3 virus, Bovine Viral Diarrhea virus, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus , clostridial infections, and leptospirosis. The design of a vaccination program must take into account a variety of factors including infectious disease problems in the immediate area or region. It is strongly recommended that producers contact a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any herd health vaccination program.

Diseases To Guard Against

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Its worth talking with a local veterinarian to work out the disease risk for your herd, as the threat of particular diseases varies according to the location and your management system.

Calves are most commonly vaccinated for clostridial diseases, as clostridial bacteria are found in the soil virtually everywhere livestock have been kept. Animals become infected by ingesting feed or pasture contaminated with clostridial spores.

Clostridial infections such as blackleg, malignant edema, black disease, and enterotoxemia have a sudden onset and severe outcomes. Response to treatment is poor and most affected animals die, making vaccination all the more critical.

A good calf vaccination plan should also consider where your calves will end up. Bovine respiratory disease complex, or shipping fever, is a damaging disease in feedlot cattle, leading to medical treatment costs, decreased daily weight gain, and deaths.

Vaccination against respiratory viruses such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis , bovine viral diarrhea virus types or BVD), and bovine respiratory syncytial virus can reduce losses caused by BRD.

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What To Look For In A Calf

Before Ken and I purchase any calf, we check it over very carefully. First, we stand the animal up and run our hands over its body to check for swellings, enlarged bones, and deformities.

Next, we check the baby’s navel for signs of infection. Navel ill a troublesome malady that afflicts newborns whose umbilical cords haven’t been clipped properly is difficult to treat once it takes hold since the infection spreads rapidly throughout the body. Better to discover it now than later.

Finally, we give the prospective purchase a good “once over” to see that the infant’s eyes are bright and clear , its ears are up and alert , and its nostrils are free of any discharge. We also put the animal to the “finger test”: A healthy calf will usually suck your finger.

How To Avoid Buying A Hot Calf

Calves born in feedlots should be examined very carefully before any money changes hands. Many of the lots put their cattle on a diet high in concentrates and additives feed that makes the animals gain a great deal of weight very quickly but that can leave the stomachs and intestines of unborn calves badly “burned.” Such burned infants are known in the trade as hot calves.

Hot calves rarely live more than a few weeks since they cannot absorb food. Therefore, it’s imperative that you determine whether the feedlot calf you’re thinking of buying is ”hot” before you commit yourself to the purchase.

Open the calf’s mouth and smell its throat. If the mother was on hot feed, the odor will be sour-sweet and very strong . Also check the animal’s gums: They may be blue-tinged, or even bloody. In general, you’ll find that a hot calf is listless, has droopy ears and dull eyes , and prefers to lie tightly curled in a fetal position.

If the calf you’re looking at displays any of the above symptoms, save your money and move onto the next one.

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