Protect your herd with an effective vaccination programme this winter

Over the last number of years, herd sizes have increased and the number of people working on farms has dropped significantly.

The last 12 months have been particularly challenging for all farmers in Ireland, having endured a very long winter and spring followed by a drought this summer.

This in itself has increased the pressure on farmers.

Traditionally, many vaccination protocols for breeding animals are concentrated around February and March.

This is a very busy time for farmers with cows to be calved, calves to be fed and the milking routine is still not completely bedded in; every day there are fresh cows and heifers to be introduced into the parlour.

As a result, this can be an inconvenient time for the farmer to carry out these important protocols and it is not ideal for the cow either.

The cow’s immune system is under pressure at this time of year. Freshly calved cows struggle to eat enough to account for the milk that they are producing.

When the cow is taking in less energy than she is giving out, this is known as negative energy balance and is visible to farmers as a drop in body condition score.

Farmers strive to reduce this, but it inevitably occurs; it is recognised that it can compromise the immune system of the cow, resulting in a decrease in their ability to respond to an infectious disease or vaccination.

The majority of cows experience some degree of immune suppression during the two to three weeks prior to and after calving.

In addition, many cows also suffer from a peri-parturient disease. Examples include milk fever, mastitis, retained foetal membranes, metritis, ketosis, and slipped stomachs.

Research has shown that up to 44% of cows are deemed unhealthy in their first 60 days in milk. Further research has shown that vaccines against viral reproductive pathogens may not be as effective in the postpartum period.

Perhaps now is the time to rethink when cows are vaccinated. The traditional spring time is not ideal for either the freshly calved cow nor for the hard-pressed farmer.

Some vaccines now offer 12 months protection without any seasonal restrictions. These vaccines could be used during the winter which is a quieter time on the farm; cows still need to be fed, milking has stopped and there are no newborn calves or fresh cows to worry about.

At this time the cows are healthy, in metabolic stability and their body condition is frequently improving, so an optimal vaccination response can be expected.

Rispoval Yearly IBR Vaccination Programme or Spirovac for Lepto control could be given in December.

Animals that have not previously been vaccinated for IBR need to receive a single dose of Rispoval IBR Marker Live into the muscle, followed up six months later with Rispoval IBR Marker Inactivated under the skin.

Once the herd is on the system, it is very easy to operate as all animals (weanlings, heifers, cows and the bull) receive an annual dose of Rispoval IBR Marker Inactivated under the skin in December.

The calves just need to get a single injection of Rispoval IBR Marker Live into the muscle in July or August, when they will all be over three months-of-age and before they are housed.

Maiden heifers have for many years been vaccinated for Lepto in mid-February and mid-March.

If Spirovac is used this could be pulled back to receiving their injections in the winter when all the cows and pregnant heifers are being vaccinated.

So now is the time to plan to reduce the workload in the busy spring and introduce some labour saving solutions to make life easier and more effective for both man and beast.

Consider a Rispoval Yearly IBR Programme that is designed and proven to be effective and convenient when used in December.

Spirovac is a yearly Lepto vaccine that has no seasonal restrictions and the booster can be given within 12 months at any time of the year and not just during the busy spring period.

For more information on winter vaccinations for your herd Click here