A proactive approach to herd health gives calves a strong start

Animal health can make or break a farm.

To ensure minimal health problems, it is a wise management strategy to have a regular vaccine calendar and a herd health plan to adhere to, especially just prior to breeding cows and again just prior to calving season. 


Before breeding, all cows should receive a health check, which includes examining their eyes, ears, legs and feet and udders.

The cows’ identification should be verified and recorded, and parasite preventatives should be administered. 

During this time, producers or their veterinarian, need to administer vaccines to prevent reproductive diseases. These include: Leptospirosis, Vibriosis (if using natural service as recommended by the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service), and IBR-BVD-PI3-BRSV virus vaccines. A modified live vaccine should only be used on open animals. The diseases the vaccines are designed to counter can cause delayed breeding, potential abortion, smaller calves and/or persistently infected calves – so prevention is a must.


If animals did not receive the previouslly outlined vaccinations prior to being bred, vaccinations should administered 40 to 60 days prior to calving. 

At three weeks prior to calving, cows should receive a scours vaccination (instructions will vary by product) so these antibodies are passed along to the calf through colostrum, and outbreaks of scours can be prevented.

Studiesd show most calf scour and respiratory problems can be reduced or eliminated by proper cow nutrition and vaccination pre-calving. In particular, copper, selenium, vitamins E and A are moved from the cow to the unborn calf in the last three months  before calving and are stored in the calf’s liver until the calf starts to graze on new grass – all of which are important for immunity and vitality.

It’s recommended that vaccination protocals for cows during the final trimester should depend on risk lvessd and past herd history.

The University of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service also recommends a pre-calving vaccination for coliform mastitis. The time of administration varies by product. 

Record Keeping

Record keeping for pre-breeding and pre-calving vaccines is imperative.

There are several digital record keeping programs such as HerdOne or CattleMax, that allow producers to keep track of breeding, medical, inventory and financial records on their computer. 

Producers can also purchase record books from farm supply stores or download forms from the internet to assemble in their own books. Record templates can be found in the National Beef Quality Assurance Manual at www.bqa.org. 

No matter the format, producers should keep records pertaining to the entire herd (vaccines, deworming, weights, etc.) and individual animals (treatments, medications, etc.). Labels and lot numbers should be recorded in the case producers experience issues with the vaccination or treatment. 

Overall, a good herd vaccination program that enhances the preventive aspects of herd health in all cattle throughout the year.


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