Singing the praises of vaccination programs in livestock

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association dedicates one week each fall to animal health week.

This year, the theme is “vaccines save lives” and it is appropriate for all species.

Vaccine use could also help reduce the amount of antimicrobial use, especially in preventing diseases caused by bacteria.

I can cite numerous examples of vaccines preventing diseases that often result in death of the host animal. These include distemper in dogs and cats to rabies in all species, to clostridial diseases in cattle, to the many encephalitic diseases in horses such as West Nile virus or western equine encephalomyelitis. Other vaccines can protect against diseases that can be treated, but can still cause death. Examples include canine parvo virus, the viral and bacterial causes of pneumonia in cattle and influenza in most species but especially horses.

Your veterinarian is the best person to set protocols and reminders of when booster shots are necessary. If new cattle are bought, a vet can help fit them into your program or gather the correct history on previous vaccinations.

The recommended vaccines will vary across the country, but most species have core vaccines recommended by almost all veterinarians.

It is most critical that you use vaccines that carry antigens for the diseases you want to protect against.

Other vaccines lead to increased productivity, such as circo virus in pigs or the reproductive diseases such as vibrio in cattle.

There are many positives to vaccinating and almost no negatives. However, a few negatives are vaccinating for diseases that have a very low prevalence in the area. As well, vaccine reactions can occur and there can be problems with storage, transportation and administering vaccines.

Apparent vaccine failures are most often caused by vaccines being frozen or heated, or modified live vaccines mixed too far in advance.

Timing is especially critical with scours vaccines. We have three main scours vaccines in Canada and they all have different recommendations as to when to administer.

It is always a good idea to avoid vaccinating during stressful times. As an example, delivering respiratory vaccines pre-weaning, before stressful weaning periods, would go a long way to reducing respiratory diseases in feedlots.

Veterinarians and producers should also guard against becoming complacent with booster vaccinations. Drug companies are constantly using newer technologies to help fill possible gaps in vaccine protection. Watch for these. Numerous intranasal vaccines designed for very young calves for respiratory diseases are now available, as are vaccines against specific scours organisms.

We have come a tremendous way since using two-way blackleg vaccines in cattle years ago.

In addition, vaccines can prevent diseases from occurring and that means antimicrobial use should decrease.

I encourage producers to share with their neighbours their vaccination protocols and I encourage purebred producers to list their health protocols in their sales catalogues.

Commercial cattle producers look to them as a source of information not only for breeding stock and herd sires but health recommendations.

Proper vaccination does save lives and we need to constantly remind ourselves to keep up with recommended vaccinations each year.

There are added costs, additional labour and planning involved, but the benefits are more than worth it. Vaccinations improve the health of our livestock industry and companion animals.

“Vaccines save lives” is a great motto to live by all year.

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