Vaccination: Enormous benefits in biosecurity

How to decide whether to vaccinate your herd or not, writes Stephen Cadogan.

One of the advice pointers from the recent Gurteen share dairy farm open day at Bandon, Co Cork was that share farmer John Sexton purchased 40 in-calf cows and 60 heifers from four different herds, and to minimise the risk of disease, the animals came from herds that had a very good vaccination programme.

According to Animal Health Ireland, vaccination is part of a farm biosecurity plan, and should not be considered the sole component of the plan, but can result in enormous benefits on most farms, when appropriately applied.

The decision on whether to vaccinate (or not) should be determined by your knowledge of the disease risk on your farm, coupled with

professional advice from

your vet.

Biosecurity measures such as avoiding purchase, double boundary fencing, avoiding shared equipment or facilities etc, can help enormously in lowering risks, but do not eliminate them completely.

Equally, vaccination may not prevent disease, but a

correctly applied programme can significantly alter the chances of disease spread, if your stock became infected.

What are the important

aspects of a correctly applied vaccination programme?

Firstly, decide on which diseases you need to protect against.

Discuss this with your vet, who will be aware, not just of your herd disease history, but also of the risk patterns in the local area.

The next step is choosing the timing of vaccination. This is determined by seasonality of disease, and recommendations of the vaccine manufacturer.

Route of administration and dosage are again given on the product insert, but should be confirmed with your local vet, if you are unsure.

Obtain your vaccine supplies from a local legitimate supplier, and always

ensure you adhere to storage precautions when transporting, storing or using


Frost can seriously damage inactivated vaccines, while both inactivated and live vaccines have a short in-use shelf life.

So aim to use them within one day’s work.

Always check the expiry date prior to use, and protect vaccines from exposure to light.

Record all administrations carefully, so that you

remember to boost at the correct time.

Use a clean sterile needle for each administration, or at the very least, change the needle frequently.

When is a booster shot needed?

Vaccines rarely provide lifelong protection, so it is

important to read the package insert carefully and follow the guidelines on vaccine boosting. Some vaccines require a primary course of two doses, so the next vaccine booster may be due in a short time (three to five weeks), while other vaccines have a single dose primary course, with the next booster not due until six to 12 months later.

Are there any downsides to vaccination?

Although uncommon,

vaccination carries the risk

of adverse reactions ranging from mild to severe.

Vaccine efficacy can be

interfered with by concurrent disease that lowers immunity, for example, parasitism,

nutritional deficiencies etc.

Happily, regulatory authorities and vaccine companies ensure that rigorous standards are applied to ensure vaccines are of consistent quality, safety and efficacy.

In summary, plan your

vaccination calendar with your local veterinary practitioner, ensure all of the conditions are met concerning health of treated animals prior to vaccination, as well as vaccine storage and use.

Many farmers in Ireland have experienced first-hand the usefulness of vaccination.


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