Vaccination - a convenient (and often cheap!) insurance policy

Vaccination - a convenient (and often cheap!) insurance policy
Using vaccines to prevent disease is the most easily recognisable example of the old adage that “prevention is better than cure”. Outbreaks of disease can be time consuming and costly. Most diseases cause production deficits and reduced stock performance; in some deaths are common where outbreaks are severe. There are many vaccinations available for dairy cattle to prevent a range of different diseases. The following outlines the most common vaccinations administered to our dairy cows and how they could work to prevent disease in your herd:

Leptospirosis Vaccination
In New Zealand, we typically vaccinate all our dairy cattle against leptospirosis for the protection of stock and of humans. We now rarely see abortion in cows and vaccination has made a huge difference to the number of human cases we are seeing of this disease, but there is still a risk to farm staff, hunters, vets and meat workers who can contract the disease from unvaccinated stock. Leptospirosis is shed in the urine so urine splashing onto exposed cuts or into eyes or mouths spreads the disease. Protective clothing such as gloves, and precautionary measures such as prohibiting smoking, eating and drinking in the shed are good ways to avoid contracting leptospirosis. Since leptospirosis is also harboured in wild animals such as in rats, rodent control on dairy farms is important. A robust vaccination plan is the other piece of the puzzle. Young stock need to be vaccinated twice pre-Christmas and an annual booster vaccination is required for all classes of stock, so make sure you have a complete program in place.

Salmonella Vaccination
Bacterial infection with salmonella can be problematic in dairy herds, particularly where feed pads are used or stock come together in wet conditions. The disease causes scouring and milk production drops, and occasionally abortion. Salmonella vaccination is very effective at protecting against the strains that are included in the vaccine. Unfortunately, some of the newer salmonella strains isolated from New Zealand dairy cows are not protected for by the strains included in our vaccines. Nevertheless, the vaccine is usually extremely protective where the more traditional salmonella strains are implicated. Any farmer who has ever suffered from an outbreak uses this cheap vaccination as an ‘insurance policy’, usually together with leptospirosis vaccination.

Rotavirus Vaccination

Rotavirus vaccination of cows prior to calving, boosts the specific rotavirus antibodies in the cow’s colostrum after she calves. Providing high quality colostrum is given in sufficient quantities within 6 to 12 hours of life and continued, the calf will be protected against Rotaviral scours if it is challenged with rotavirus in its environment. This vaccine is highly effective where colostrum management is good. Rotaviral scours is highly contagious so often all calves are affected at once making treatment and management very difficult. Where Rotavirus outbreaks have occurred the previous season, vaccination is recommended of the whole herd. It is not a silver bullet, but can be a very useful tool to prevent further devastating outbreaks.

If you have any questions regarding vaccinations, please talk to your lead Anexa FVC Vet, we’re here to help.

Date Added: Monday, 8th May 2017