Britt’s Whitt: Don’t let bugs steal your profit

The trees turning yellow are the green light for many producers’ fall cow work. It’s also a great time to reevaluate your vaccination and parasite protection for the following year. Fall vaccine programs for the mother cow group can have great benefit. It’s an opportunity to protect the pregnancy against abortifacient diseases as well as bolster colostral antibody in the spring. In our area my opinion is that you need to have a minimum requirement of two shots; some kind of clostridial protection and some kind of reproduction protection. I would consider these to be core vaccine requirements for a healthy cow herd and a strong calf crop.

Clostridial bacteria live in the dirt, they are a nasty bunch of bugs including the types that cause black leg, tetanus, and overeating disease. Calves are immediately exposed at birth and death losses can be devastating. Wounds and weakened immune systems can also leave adult cattle vulnerable. A solid vaccination program for the most common offenders can help insure that your mother cows have strong colostral antibody to pass to their calves upon birth, and will also protect the mature cow group as well. All animals should be vaccinated for clostridial disease protection, including herd bulls. If cattle are run in areas with metal junk, nails, wire or down fence it may be of value to add tetanus protection. Most producers get adequate coverage with a vaccine that protects against blackleg, overeating, Black disease, and malignant edema.

Reproductive and respiratory protective vaccines are commonly packaged into a single shot. The biggest decision with these vaccines is choosing a modified live virus or a killed virus vaccine. Modified live vaccines should only be administered to non-pregnant cattle, unless a previous dose was administered in the cow’s non-pregnant period. There are some very respectable killed virus vaccines that are safe for bred cows and heifers. Reproductive disease can be a financial pitfall and for less than a dollar per dose protecting your investment seems very economically feasible.

Many producers also choose to use some kind of anti-parasitic during fall cow work. I would strongly encourage all producers to work with their veterinarian and analyze fecal samples to determine the appropriate use of anti-parasitics. Unfortunately, even in the western states, resistance to these drugs is on the rise. Anti-parasitics can be expensive; not identifying resistance issues can be deadly. Fecal samples from cow groups can give a general idea of parasite burden. More importantly repeat fecal samples after administration of an anti-parasitic can insure you are getting the value for the money spent.

Every operation and producer is going to have different needs for vaccine and parasite protection. Having a solid working relationship with your veterinarian will help them guide you and helps you reach the goals you have for your cow herd. Vaccine and anti-parasitic drug choices can seem overwhelming. By identifying issues seen within your herd, discussing concerns and problems with your veterinarian, and making a solid protocol that is followed, it can become an easy routine. Here’s to fat calves and good breed backs!