Dave Barz: Vet’s Voice – Tetanus and banding
I hope you are all having a great holiday season. Santa was good to me and I believe 2013 will be a great year for all of us. This fall and winter the dry, dusty conditions have caused problems with an old common disease in our area, Clostridium tetani. I believe the environmental conditions and a misunderstanding of vaccination protocol are adding to our problems.
Tetanus was first described by Hippocrates in the 6th century. Finally in the late 1800s the organism was isolated. The bacteria, Clostridium tetani, is a spore forming organism commonly found in the soil. Normally it is more common in tropical areas, but soil conditions must be appropriate for its growth in our area. Usually the disease is associated with a wound, but we have seen it occur in young calves with navel infection. The animal shows signs of spasmodic muscle contractions. Typically you see the primary signs in the eyes and ears, but it soon progresses to a saw-horse like stance. These signs are a result of the exotoxin produced by the bacteria. Once the toxin becomes fixed to the nerve, treatment in cattle shows little response.
This fall we saw a drastic increase in Tetanus cases following band castration. There are several reasons for this problem:
• Many producers who normally knife castrated opted to use bands, because of the hot dusty conditions. These producers had little experience with banding and the calves were not properly prepared.
• Bad environmental conditions with dust and dirt in the animal bedding areas.
• Misunderstanding of vaccines and vaccination protocol.
Through the years we have come to expect 100 percent efficiency from vaccinations. When a vaccine is tested many calves are vaccinated and then challenged with the organism. The vaccine can be licensed if the infection rates (deaths) are statistically less than non-vaccinated. That does not mean all the non-vaccinates die and all the vaccinates live. This is by far an over simplification, but hopefully you understand the concept. For this reason most products require several vaccinations at regular intervals (usually 21 days). In my old text books, they recommend at least three doses of tetanus vaccine to assure immunity.
When banders originally came to the market, it was recommended to administer a dose of vaccine as the animals were banded. This worked initially, but many producers began to have problems. Now when I search the internet I can’t find any recommendations or protocols. This probably means no one is interested in assuming the liability associated with this procedure.
Companies producing tetanus vaccine recommend two doses of vaccine 21 days apart and then the band is placed 21 days later. This is a prolong procedure which is usually used on short-term feedlot cattle and it usually won’t fit into normal time frames.
We have seen tetanus in horses and lots of lambs through the years. It was thought that the disease was rare and incidental in cattle. Usually one would occur out of every 500-600 bands. This year we have seen more sporadic deaths, but also 4-6 in a herd and in feedlots 50-60 percent losses in pens of 80-100 head. Many practitioners have been recommending a tetanus vaccinations at spring turnout and a second dose at early fall processing, before banding. Some problem cow herds are also using cow vaccination to minimize problems in younger calves.
Banding older calves has recently been promoted to avoid the use of growth implants. Be sure you understand the properties of your tetanus vaccines and the program you are using. If you are in the feedlot scenario, you must assume all animals are naive and use an appropriate time line for vaccination to establish appropriate recommendation for your herd or feed yard. Careful attention to simple details will assure you incur no major losses.
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