What to consider when choosing animal health products

In today’s society, the consumer has lots of choices when making purchases. From the brand of cereal to the type of beer, different choices are around every corner.

The same thing is becoming true in the animal health and pharmaceutical industry.

At the end of the day, the most important decision is whether to use vaccines, preventive medicine, antimicrobials, dewormers, pain control or growth promotants.

Once that decision is made, then which specific brand name to use is based on many other factors such as convenience, cost, withdrawal times and affiliation to the specific brand name. Efficacy should not be in question as these are approved products with specific label recommendations.

Only rarely do we find a stand-alone product in cattle production.

You and your veterinarian decide, for instance, on the vaccine protocol to use on your farm and ranch. The prevention of diseases specific to your region are discussed. There are newer vaccines, more specifically intranasals, that fit a specific need, but by and large in Canada, the core cattle vaccines are the clostridials, histophilus, IBR ,BVD, PI3, BRSV and Mannheimia given to calves.

Timing and the need to give boosters are the factors that need vigilance. There are only one or two vaccines that have Pasteurella multocida in them and they are being used in greater frequency in the young beef or dairy calves and on veal operations.

You need to be cognizant of what specific diseases you need protection for in your vaccines and if you change the vaccines, make sure those protections are provided.

The clostridials and the five-way viral vaccines to prevent reproductive losses are given to cows. I would also say that the vast majority of cows on larger operations are given scour vaccines. There are now three choices or trade names to choose from and all three are from large pharmaceutical companies.

I must mention that all vaccines must pass specific measures on quality efficacy and safety before they are approved by the Canadian authorities. We can use these products with confidence, providing we handle the products properly, administer them properly and adhere to the label requirements.

As with any vaccines or antimicrobials, keep in mind there is variation in a biological system, so nothing is going to be 100 percent. On vaccines the rule of thumb is to protect more than 80 percent of the herd.

We see few trials comparing vaccines anymore because there is usually little difference between them. This is borne out by the fact that lots of each of the different vaccines are shown to be effective out in cattle herds.

The great news is we do have choice so if there is a manufacturing problem and a batch of vaccine goes down, we have supply available from a different company.

In regards to which vaccine better boosters another vaccine, talk to your herd health veterinarian to get this clarification if there is the need to switch.

Often switches are made because of soft differences in products, such as ease of administration. An example is today’s vast array of painkillers or NSAIDS. We have evolved from NSAIDs that can be given only intravenously to subcutaneously to orally. As well, a pour-on painkiller is now available.

We may evolve to delivering painkillers in feed so, for instance, a whole pen could be given painkillers before they are branded, dehorned or castrated.

There are few instances I can think of in which painkillers should not be prescribed for these intrusive and painful procedures. The least important decision then becomes which painkiller to use, and your veterinarian will have specific choices for the specific procedures or clinical entities to be treated. In the dairy world, be sure there is a known milk withdrawal because residues must be avoided.

Often timing will make the choice for you. I will use the scour vaccines as a good example of this.

On the yearly booster shot to cows, one of the most critical things is when you are going to administer it to the cows before the calving season starts. There are three scour vaccines on the market now in Canada and because each has a slightly different technology and manufacturing process, they all recommend a suggested time before calving that they can be administered. Scourguard is the closest at three to six weeks, Bovilis Guardian is five to seven weeks and Scourbos is eight to 10 weeks before calving.

We are banking on administering it just when the calving season gets going to get enough time to get the protection from the vaccine into the colostrum.

If your herd’s time of calving changes, that may change the best vaccine to use. All these vaccines protect for the same groups of bacteria and viruses, with only slight differences in the specifics.

The timing is key. For example, if you want the convenience of the subcutaneous application of the Guardian vaccine, then the timing of application may need to change slightly. Likewise, if the weather is too cold and you get very close to calving, Scourguard may be the right choice.

There are lots of choices in the animal health realm, and that is why making use of the veterinary client patient relationship offers the best way for you and your herd veterinarian to make the best choice.

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