Vaccination time: what producers should know

Injections should be at least six inches apart and syringes should be marked so same vaccine is always in same syringe

Spring turnout is the typical time for cattle ranchers to vaccinate calves, and Dr. Roy Lewis offered a few reminders about that process during a recent webinar organized by Verified Beef Production Plus.

Subcutaneous injections in the neck have become the norm and generally two injections are provided to calves in spring: a modified live vaccine for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and histophilus, and 7, 8 or 9-way clostridial, often called the blackleg vaccine. Protection against tetanus is also recommended if banding or surgically castrating bull calves.

The two shots should be administered in two different locations on the neck, or alternatively, one in the neck and one behind the shoulder, said Lewis.

“Everybody has what we call a sweet spot when they vaccinate in the neck and if they’re not conscious of it and they’re giving two vaccines, they’ll put them right on top of one another,” he said.

“Something like a clostridial vaccine, if it mixes with your modified live vaccine, it will render it useless. The clostridial will probably be OK but the modified live vaccine, you might as well have just squirted it into the air and not given it.”

Never inject more that 10 cc of product into a single injection site and use the shortest and highest gauge needle that will do the job.

For calves, an 18-gauge needle one-half to three-quarters of an inch long is most common. For cows, a 16-gauge needle one inch long should be adequate, Lewis said.

Injections should be placed at least six inches apart and syringes should be marked so the same vaccine is always in the same syringe. Labels or coloured tapes on the syringes can help people keep better track of the separate treatments.

“If you switch them and there’s maybe a cc or two of clostridial vaccine in one and you put the modified live product in it, same thing as giving the vaccines close together. You’ll have rendered all that vaccine kind of half useless and that’s going to be a detriment to you.”

Lewis recommends the use of short needles that should ideally be replaced after every 10 injections or most certainly if the needle becomes dull, dirty or burred.

Those giving the vaccinations should know the physiology of the bovine neck to avoid accidents.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of vital structures around that and we’ve got to watch,” said Lewis. “There has been the odd incident of something injected by mistake into the jugular vein and you will cause a huge allergic reaction, almost instantaneously. Sometimes death.”

Tenting the skin in very small calves might be a useful technique but it increases the chances of the person stabbing themselves in the fingers so use it with caution, said Lewis.

He also advised producers to have an emergency kit at the ready in case an animal has an allergic reaction to vaccines.

“It happens very rarely but when it does happen it often happens in multiples.”

Allergic reactions generally occur within 20 minutes to an hour after the injection. Treatment with epinephrine is then required and sometimes more than one shot is needed.

Signs of allergic reaction in cattle include heavy breathing, respiratory distress, swelling at the injection site and bugged-out eyes. Ensure the epinephrine in the emergency kit is current and not expired, although even an expired treatment is better than none.

About the author

explore

Stories from our other publications