New thinking on IBR control – vaccinate your calves NOW

Almost 75% of dairy and suckler herds have been shown to have exposure to IBR. IBR is unique in that after cattle are infected, they become carriers of the disease for life.

At times of stress, the disease can reactivate with the animal shedding virus and this can result in other animals becoming infected.

There are many benefits to beginning calf vaccination early in life. Research has shown that in the first two months of life, dairy calves that are successfully treated for a single case of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) produce 4% less milk in their first lactation and 8% less in their second lactation.

Both clinical and subclinical disease can cause a reduction in daily live weight gain in both beef and dairy calves. Therefore reducing the incidence of bovine respiratory disease makes economic sense.

2018 spring born calves that are three months of age or older can receive a 2ml shot into the muscle around now (June/July).

These calves then receive their booster shot six months later (November/December respectively). An annual booster shot can then be administered to these cattle every 12 months using Bovilis® IBR Marker Live.

Spread within a herd

The IBR virus persists within a herd due to the presence of latently infected carrier animals. Direct transmission occurs due to either contact with acutely infected animals or latently infected animals at times of reactivation.

It can also be spread indirectly due to contact with humans, contaminated equipment or less so through embryo transfer.

Diagnosis and monitoring

For dairy farmers, regular bulk milk testing is a good starting point for monitoring. A negative bulk milk test should be interpreted with caution, as this can be the result even if 20% of the herd are carriers due to the dilution effect of a bulk tank sample. Blood testing in both dairy and suckler herds is advised.


Because of the high prevalence of the disease, dairy and suckler farmers are advised to vaccinate against IBR with Bovilis® IBR Marker Live.

Calves should get their first vaccination at three months of age, followed by a booster six months later and then annual vaccination.

The recent granting of a 12 month duration of immunity license for Bovilis® IBR Marker Live greatly simplifies the IBR vaccination programme. Rather than vaccinating every six months, many farmers can now move to an annual booster pre‐calving.

Farmers are urged to get veterinary advice on the best vaccination programme for their herd.

Bovilis IBR vaccination campaign

The granting of an annual booster license for Bovilis® IBR Marker Live is a big boost to the IBR vaccination programme on many dairy and suckler farms.

IBR is a huge issue for many Irish herds and, with a national eradication programme hopefully in the not‐so‐far distant future, it is a really good time to tackle IBR.

Whole herd vaccination coupled with good biosecurity is key to getting IBR under control. Calves need to be vaccinated before they come in contact with latently infected carriers in the herd, as this will limit the spread of IBR within the herd.

As a company MSD Animal Health recommends the following vaccination programme:

  • First vaccination of Bovilis® IBR Marker Live to calves at three months of age;
  • Booster six months later (at nine months of age);
  • All subsequent revaccinations at 12 month intervals (at 21 months of age etc.);
  • Herds that experience disease in young calves can also give an additional vaccination of Bovilis® IBR Marker Live intranasally from two weeks of age;
  • From three months of age Bovilis® IBR Marker Live may be given intramuscularly or intranasally.
Six monthly vaccination may still be necessary for high-risk herds and farmers should discuss the most effective programme for their farms with their veterinary practitioner.

Bovilis® IBR Marker Live is the only single dose IBR Marker vaccine for use either intramuscularly or intranasally.

Further advantages for farmers using the Bovilis range of vaccines include:

  • Bovilis® IBR Marker Live and Bovilis® Bovipast RSP can be given on the same day to calves from three weeks of age;
  • Bovilis® IBR Marker Live can be mixed with Bovilis® BVD and given as a combined booster dose to animals over 15 months of age.

To find out more information about the full vaccine range, Click here