A vaccination protocol, proper nutrition and reducing stress will keep animals healthier

Healthy herds and flocks are vital to a successful farming operation. Healthy animals perform better, live longer and increase a farm’s bottom line. One way to raise healthy animals is by boosting the herd or flock’s immunity to diseases.


To increase immunity, it pays for a producer to take a look at their vaccination program. Newborn animals receive immunity from the colostrum they receive from their mothers, but as they age that immunity wears off and must be boosted in other ways to prevent costly loss of animals to fatal diseases.

“Vaccines are cheap insurance for higher farm and ranch profits,” Dr. David Fernandez, with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. “The price of a single animal – calf, lamb or kid – lost to a preventable disease will pay for the vaccination program for an entire herd or flock in most cases.”

Consulting with a veterinarian can help producers determine what diseases their herd could be at risk for and establish a vaccination protocol that will be most effective for their livestock.

To make the most of vaccinations and the disease immunity they provide, producers need to ensure proper storage, handling and administration of vaccines. Improper management can render vaccines useless, which will not protect the herd or flock. According to the Noble Research Institute in Oklahoma, most vaccines need to be stored refrigerated or at room temperature. Vaccines must be kept cool and out of the sun while in use because UV light can cause some to become ineffective. Use a small ice chest at the chute. If using vaccines that are shipped freeze-dried, reconstitute only enough to be used in about 30 minutes. Throw away reconstituted vaccine not used within one hour of mixing.

Cleanliness of equipment is also a vital component of vaccine management. Equipment contamination by dirt, bacteria or chemicals are among the most common causes of vaccine failure.

Change needles as often, at least after every 15 head. Always use a fresh needle to draw additional vaccine into the syringe. When setting the syringe down between each vaccination, use a clean, empty tray as a container. It’s also important to label reusable syringes to ensure the use of the same product in them. Throw disposable syringes away.

Clean equipment with hot water only, because residues from detergents or alcohol can contaminate vaccines. Boiling in water equipment is the best way to disinfect it.

To further keep up herd and flock immunity, producers should quarantine any new animals for two to three weeks and ensure that they have received the same vaccinations as the rest of the farm residents.

Nutrition and Stress Reduction

Vaccinations are not the only way to boost immunity and keep animals healthy. Feed and environment are pieces of the puzzle, too. Andy McCorkill, livestock field specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, encouraged producers to look at the “big picture.”

“We have long known proper nutrition and stress reduction strategies for our grazing animals is one of the first lines of defense we have against disease outbreak,” he said. “A more holistic and intense approach to management where forage resources and animal nutrition are considered along with the use of a disciplined preventative health program might unlock the key to reduced illness and added profit potential.”

Working with a livestock nutritionist, conducting a forage analysis and implementing rotational grazing, paired with a herd health plan developed with the aid of a trusted veterinarian, all benefit livestock when it comes to increasing immunity.


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