Video: Calf disease and how vaccination can play an important role against this

While calf purchase price and the genetics of the calf are foremost in terms of making a profit on calf-to-beef systems, calf health is also a pillar which deserves significant consideration.

Focusing on hygiene and vaccination is the best policy to ensuring this happens. Pneumonia and scour are the two major illnesses that compromise calf health and reduce lifetime performance.

Prevention is always better and cheaper than the cure and a health plan should be implemented on-farm.

It should be noted that no amount of vaccination can overcome a lack of quality colostrum administered to the calf at birth and the bacterial and viral challenges calves face when the environment they are reared in is not up to scratch.

In the video below, Suzanne Naughton – technical veterinary advisor in the midland region for MSD Animal Health – discusses the importance of a herd health plan, and how vaccination forms an important component of that plan.

“What we are trying to do with vaccination is boost that calf’s immune system to give it that extra protection against disease. The number one disease when rearing and sourcing calves is bovine respiratory disease or pneumonia.

“By vaccinating – particularly against respiratory disease – we are either using an intranasal vaccine or an injectable vaccine, and we really want to reduce the incidence of that disease,” Suzanne explained.

There are several pneumonia vaccines on the market today. Some are for the common bacteria that cause pneumonia, such as Mannheimia (formerly known as Pasteurella) and others are for respiratory viruses that cause pneumonia (IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV).

If possible, the calves can be vaccinated against pneumonia a week before leaving the dairy farm and it is advantageous to source calves from farms that vaccinate cows against scour in late pregnancy.

This ensures that the cow produces colostrum with increased levels of antibodies which protect against rotavirus, corona virus and E. coli. Feeding the calf enough colostrum will then enhance the protection of the calf against these bugs.

Vaccine management

Remember that correctly administering and storing vaccines is important to improve the success of a vaccination programme.

“Once you get your vaccines, they should be kept in the fridge until you are ready to go with your batch of animals.

“Vaccines should be made up according to the recommendations on the data sheet in the box – all the information on how much to administer and where is on the data sheet provided.

“Start with a clean needle and a clean syringe. If you are using an old dirty needle, you are increasing the likelihood of an abscess or lump developing.”

Part 1: Video series: The complete guide to buying and rearing dairy-beef calves
Part 2: Video: What can I pay for dairy-beef calves?
Part 3: Video: What questions should I ask dairy farmers when sourcing dairy-beef calves?
Part 4: The importance of choosing dairy calves with the right genetics for beef production
Part 5: Video: How to examine the calf prior to purchase for dairy-beef systems
Part 6: Video: The correct housing environment for calves is crucial for top performance
Part 7: Video: How to manage the dairy calf on arrival to the beef farm
Part 8: Video: What to look for in a quality milk replacer
Part 9: Video: How to mix milk replacer and the correct rate to feed