Health programs for spring calving beef herds
Vaccination programs are a little like insurance policies. When margins are tight, the immediate reaction is to reduce expenses, especially the variable expenses that you write checks for. However, it’s during lean times that herd sicknesses could be even more financially devastating to the operation. For potential replacement females in the herd, the overall herd health program begins prior to birth, and continues throughout her productive life while in the herd.
One of the most important aspects to establishing a health program is working with your veterinarian. They can help recommend products and vaccination schedules that best fit your environment and livestock operation. They can also offer tips that will help maximize the herd’s response to vaccination and improve the overall protection. Developing a comprehensive herd health program for the entire year is important to guarantee that adequate immunity is maintained throughout the year.
Table 1 represents a generic example of a herd health program for a spring calving herd. Keep in mind that the figure is a place to start. It’s a good idea to discuss specific products and vaccination timing with your local veterinarian.
In addition to working with your local veterinarian, there are supplemental management practices that are critical to maintaining an effective herd health program. This “Top Ten” list of practices include:
1. Reading and following label directions for all vaccines, antibiotics and parasite control products.
2. Follow proper Beef Quality Assurance guidelines, and place all shots in front of the shoulder.
3. Use hot water (180 degrees) to sterilize equipment. Do not use disinfectants when administering modified live vaccines.
4. Keep all vaccines out of direct sunlight to protect from UV damage, and store in a cool place – even when the product is loaded in the syringe.
5. Color code or mark syringes to avoid mixing or giving the incorrect dose.
6. Do not administer more than 10 cc of product per injection site.
7. To maintain maximum effectiveness, mix only enough vaccine to be used in one hour or less.
8. Choose the correct needle for the job, and replace needles often.
9. Observe the proper withdrawal times for all antibiotics.
10. Keep records of vaccinations, medications, and feed additives used.
Herd health programs are a coordinated effort between your veterinarian, manager and processing crew. Following the guidelines listed above will help to guarantee a proper vaccine response and improved protection for the herd. Additional herd health components not discussed in this article also include adequate nutrition, sound mineral program and proper herd management. As natural and organic marketing opportunities continue to grow, beef producers are challenged to maintain herd health while minimizing the use of antibiotics. Thorough herd vaccination programs are a critical component to meeting the guidelines for these programs.