The common protocol using “4-way” viral inoculations is used on calves by many Arkansas and Missouri  farmers, but veterinarians say that it fails to cover some other widespread cattle ailments.
The generally recommended set of calf vaccinations, according to University of Arkansas veterinary specialist Dr. Tom Troxel, includes the Respiratory Complex viral vaccines (IBR, BVD, PI3 and sometimes hemophilus), as well as black leg and leptospirosis. These shots are required for “pre-vac” sales at sale barns, and for Missouri’s Show-Me heifer program.
The Respiratory Complex vaccine is intended to prevent shipping fever, or respiratory viral infection.
“Shipping fever is a term which describes this infection,” said Dr. Troxel. “It (is an) infection of the lungs, which causes scarring… It causes them to go off feed, keep their heads down and feel bad.” Additionally, according to Fayetteville, Ark., veterinarian Jeremy Powell, BVD (bovine viral diarrhea) and IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis) are known to cause pregnant cows to miscarry their calves, a symptom known as viral abortion.
Blackleg, caused by Clostridium bacteria in the soil and common in rapidly growing calves and yearlings, is also part of the standard immunization protocol in Arkansas and Missouri, both of which are “clostridium states,” meaning that the bacterium is commonly found in the soil here. “In some parts of (Arkansas) the blackleg is so severe that we vaccinate the adult animals once a year,” Dr. Troxel said. Leptospirosis, a disease spread by wild animals such as rodents and deer, is typically vaccinated against at the same time.
As extensive as the widely followed vaccine routine is, some veterinarians recommend others as well. Brucellosis shots are recommended for dairy herds that might come into contact with out-of-state animals, and pasturella shots are recommended for herds in areas where that disease is common.
For breeding cows and bulls, vibrio vaccine is recommended. It immunizes the animals against vibriosis, a sexually transmitted infection which often causes early embryonic death in the offspring of infected parents. Bovine vibrio vaccine is often included in the leptospirosis shot, such combination vaccines being known as “VL5” vaccines since they inoculate against vibriosis and the five main types of leptospirosis.
Another STD against which cattle are sometimes vaccinated is bovine trichomoniasis. But Dr. Powell said that in nine years of practice in the Ozarks, he has never seen a case.
“It’s not one that cattlemen here are really worried about,” he observed, adding that the disease is more commonly found “out in the Western states, on the range country.” However, he is cautious about dismissing it as a concern for the Ozarks region. “It can be a problem anywhere in the United States, if (the ranchers) purchase the infection, basically, by hauling in (infected animals)… Bulls are generally the ones that spread it.” Moreover, veterinarians have generally found that the trichomoniasis vaccines on the market are ineffective, probably because the disease is caused by a protozoan rather than by a virus or bacterium.


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