Herd Management: Why you should think like a dairyman when it comes to vaccination

Herd Management: Why you should think like a dairyman when it comes to vaccination

A side-view shot of a cow in a pen getting taken care of by a female farmer at a farm in Northumberland. The cow is licking the woman on the face.

As housing approaches each year, farmers are also considering what to dose and vaccinate stock with around housing. This decision-making process should ideally be done in conjunction with your vet. 

They will set you in the right direction regarding any tests that could be carried out within your herd to establish exposure to particular diseases.

Dosing and vaccination programmes

Many suckler herds are now replicating what their dairy neighbour does and are testing a sample of their cows via random blood samples to try and establish the herd disease status and take action accordingly. If a particular disease is then identified in a herd as a result, your vet will advise you as to the best course of action. 

If you have been having a lot of respiratory issues, don’t ignore them; investigate and act. For farms that buy in stock from herds with unknown disease status, the best practice may be to vaccinate all stock for IBR.

This decision should be made in conjunction with sound veterinary advice. The timing of vaccinations and any booster required is important to optimise disease cover.

Housing of stock even using good management practices will heighten stress levels, resulting in them being more susceptible to picking up disease from carriers within the farm. This seems to be very much the case when it comes to respiratory diseases such as IBR, RSV and PI3.

Many suckler farmers also vaccinate in-calf cows to prevent calf scours, and if this has been a problem in the past, it should be considered.

Consider introducing young stock to their indoor diet before housing to reduce dietary stress compounding any environmental stress. This should include both forage and concentrates to be fed indoors.

As part of disease control, it is important that sheds are cleaned out and disinfected to avoid the carryover of bugs from last winter.

Parasite control strategies

Parasite control advice should also be sought from your vet. Suckler cows often go un-dosed, but is this the right thing to do? Some will dose first-calvers at drying and not the mature cows. 

If in doubt, get your vet to take samples and establish your herd's parasite burden and establish necessary control measures.

For those in BEEP, if you have elected to do the dung sampling option, then you will be getting the relevant information from this. Many herds are reporting positive results for liver fluke, even on farms considered dry and at lower risk.

Ensure with all stock that you follow the manufacturer’s full recommendations when using doses and vaccines.

  • Brian Reidy is an independent ruminant nutritionist at Premier Farm Nutrition.

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