Successful is a word people love, not only to hear but to achieve. One of the biggest contributions in helping farmers and ranchers reach the goal of having a successful herd is by vaccinating. Why? It is one of the first and most important aspects to help a calf survive and mature. Cattle are like humans. They need vaccinations to support and build up their immune systems and protect them from diseases. As cattle progress into different stages of life, various vaccinations should be administered at certain times. 

At 2 to 3 months of age, calves should get their first round of vaccinations, again at 30 days before being separated from their mother, and then one more time at separation or after separation from the cow. Most of the vaccinations aim to prevent bacterial infections, respiratory problems, pneumonia and diarrhea and boost the immune system. As the cattle grow into maturity they will require yearly vaccinations. 

Vaccinations should always be customized for each person’s operation. To have the most successful vaccination schedule, consult your veterinarian. Additional vaccinations can be added depending on the area. 

Understanding the benefit and the purpose of commonly used vaccinations will help to clarify why each is given. Leptospirosis, vibriosis, trichomoniasis, brucellosis, and IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis) all are infectious diseases which often cause abortion and infertility. Parainfluenza Virus 3 (PI3) and Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus typically affect the upper and lower respiratory system, causing pneumonia and even death. E. coli is a bacteria that can cause serious diarrhea in young calves. 

Blackleg is a highly fatal disease caused by Clostridium chauvoei in young cattle. It inflames muscle tissue, and often the leg muscle turns blackish red in color, hence the name Blackleg. Bovine virus diarrhea can damage the digestive and immune systems and cause pneumonia, abortions, deformities and many other symptoms. Pink eye is a common infectious disease affecting the eyes, causing redness and inflammation to the lining of the eyelid and eyeball. Anaplasmosis is a vector-borne infectious blood disease, which means it is transmitted by biting insects. It causes anemia, fever, weight loss, breathlessness, uncoordinated movements, abortion and death. 

Nutrition is the foundation of all aspects for cattle to keep them healthy. Giving vaccinations to cattle when their immune system is weak will not effectively benefit the animal. Vaccinations need to be administered when cattle are healthy unless a veterinarian says differently. When administering certain vaccinations, they must be in the correct location or it won’t work or could have adverse effects. The best location is in the neck, given under the skin. Administering too many vaccinations at the same time can cause interference with vaccines that aren’t licensed to be used together. 

The cost of vaccinating a herd is substantially less than losing cattle to disease. Avoid paying extra money and having outrageous vet bills. Veterinarians are here to help farmers and ranchers, to provide more knowledge based on each individual herd. It is always better to be safe than sorry and have a good preventative health program. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Sticking to a vaccination schedule will help ranchers have a successful herd. 

This essay on a topic in agriculture was researched and written by a student as part of a project in a senior animal science class at Fort Hays State University

Macy Keller, a 2015 Palco High School graduate, is a junior majoring in animal science at Fort Hays State University.