Vaccination timing is important but sometimes needs fine-tuning

Vaccines and parasiticides are most effective in livestock when used at the proper time.

Fine-tuning the most appropriate and cost-effective times to apply will achieve the optimum results.

Over the years, we have sometimes got away with the cookbook-type approach, which means cattle always get treated with a vaccination, are dewormed and de-liced before entering the feedlot, for example.

But depending on the time of year, where the cattle have come from, and their previous history, that may not be the most effective. This calls for tighter management and more testing to determine where and when it’s best to deliver the appropriate medications.

I will use examples in this article that hopefully will lead to a better outcome and some cost savings and get you thinking about how to implement these suggestions. Always do any of these changes in co-operation with herd veterinarians because they can often help with the prescribing implementation and monitoring where necessary.

We have talked about endectocides not working as effectively for internal as well as external parasites. We perhaps can no longer blanket treat incoming or weaned cattle any time starting in the early fall. We know lice populations rise later in fall and that is probably a more appropriate time to administer, knowing that we may need to treat the animals again during winter in some cases.

For fly control, cattle oilers can be effective in the summer, but we may need to monitor fly populations and wait until they get high, around the middle of summer, before treating. We must always compromise between when it may appear to be the easiest to treat and when we get the maximum effect.

Deworming products used in the fall may be delayed until animals are totally off grass, if levels are high enough. If cattle are given a deworming strategically when out at pasture in mid-summer, their levels may be low enough in the fall to not need deworming. They may need checking and monitoring of fecal material but we can no longer rely on the one-time fix of a pour-on endectocide to solve all of our parasite problems.

With vaccinations, we need to decide on core vaccines and delivery timing is critical. If we can vaccinate before the stresses of weaning or arrival at the feedlot, that is ideal.

Also, we need to know if a booster vaccine is necessary and whether it has been given. In the feedlot, we may do this at re-implant time.

I am all for doing as much as you can each time the animals are brought through the chute, but one has to balance between implanting at the re-implant window and not stretching the booster vaccine out too long. We are striving to get maximum protection from the vaccines. That should be your goal and this maximum protection occurs two to four weeks after vaccination in general.

You pay good money for vaccines so store, handle and administer them properly and give them at the most appropriate time possible.

This will give you the best immune response, hopefully, and hence the best protection against disease.

Timing of scour vaccines is critical, so follow the label carefully. The three existing scour vaccines on the market all have different times prior to calving when they need to be administered. This is to allow enough time for colostral protection to build up.

You may find you might jump scour vaccines simply because you get too close or far from calving.

The other factor at play here is that we want maximum protection when calving is at the peak. The reverse also happens where vaccinating for scours back at an early pregnancy checking time. This may be too early and immunity may be waning when colostrum is being produced.

Timing also matters for purebred breeders’ tattooing, which should be at weaning time as opposed to at birth because tattoos get too big to read properly.

Some producers ear tag with the RFID tag when animals are put out into pasture because having two tags at birth may make ears droop.

For castration, the younger the better is a good rule to follow, which means it can be carried out at birth with rings. The simple rule here is the bigger and heavier the testicles, the harder the castration is on the animal, regardless of technique.

Next time you carry out a management procedure, vaccination or metaphylactic antibiotic, you should consider whether timing is the most appropriate for response, protection or treatment.

Raising cattle is not a cookbook-type operation, where there is one recipe that applies in all circumstances.

Roy Lewis works as a technical services veterinarian part time with Merck Animal Health in Alberta.

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