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Know when to vaccinate calves and why

James England, Caine Center, University of Idaho says, the important vaccinations that all cattle should receive annually include the five-way viral vaccines and the seven- or eight-way clostridial vaccines.

Know when to vaccinate calves and why

James England, Caine Center, University of Idaho says, the important vaccinations that all cattle should receive annually include the five-way viral vaccines and the seven- or eight-way clostridial vaccines.

“Everything else is optional, depending on what the risks may be in a certain region or ranch situation. What most people do is vaccinate the calves at branding time, or at 6 to 10 weeks of age if they are not going to be branded,” he says.

“Depending on the age of the calf, there may be some that don’t respond to a modified-live virus vaccine at this time because they still have antibodies from colostrum, but I still recommend using the modified-live vaccine because the calves that don’t have residual colostral antibodies will benefit,” England says.

“About 25% to 50% of the 2- to 4-month-old calves may not respond, but the susceptible individuals are usually protected with this one dose. If you want to make sure all of them are immunized, you need to revaccinate calves at weaning time. This will also act as a booster to those that did mount immune response in the spring,” he says.

Ideally, replacement heifers should be vaccinated at branding time with viral and clostridial vaccines, at weaning time, and then again at least 30 days before breeding. “They need three doses of those two vaccine groups before they meet the bulls,” he says.

Most ranchers give vaccinations at branding time and boosters at about 10 or 11 months of age when the heifers get their brucellosis vaccination. “From that point on, they can be vaccinated every year at preg-checking time with a modified-live virus vaccine,” says England.

“Once heifers have their first modified-live IBR-BVD vaccine, I recommend a modified-live vaccine from then on. We have vaccines now that are approved for pregnant cows, as long as they have been vaccinated previously and have some immunity already.”

Key Points

• Calves need vaccinations after their immunity from colostrum wanes.

• Vaccination boosters at weaning protect calves from stress-related diseases.

• More producers use process verification to get a higher price at market.

Weaning time vaccination

If calves had their first modified-live virus vaccine and pasteurella vaccination at branding, their weaning-time vaccination acts as a booster.

“If the calves will be sold in a process-verified program, it really doesn’t matter which vaccines you use, as long as the veterinarian or the health record states that these calves were vaccinated with such-and-such vaccine at a certain time. The common calfhood vaccinations at branding time include the clostridials, the five-way viral vaccine and sometimes the intranasal IBR-BRSV-PI3,” England says.

The veterinarian certifies that the calves received a certain group of vaccinations, that they were given appropriately and that the vaccine was handled appropriately.

“The calves are vaccinated a certain number of days pre-weaning, are weaned and then held a certain number of days before sale. This program is designed for calves that will be sold and eventually go to a feedlot, and includes a pasteurella vaccine,” England explains.

More producers are using process verification and generally get a higher price at market, especially when dealing directly with certain livestock markets. “If your calves have already been prevaccinated, weaned and held until they are over the stress of weaning, they generally bring a few cents more per pound,” he says.

Some markets, like Superior Livestock video auctions, have additional requirements for vaccination. “If calves are contracted with a feedlot through direct marketing, the feedlot will tell the producer what vaccines they want those calves to have before they come,” England says.

“Usually, the feedlot wants the rancher to give a pasteurella vaccine in a preconditioning program at weaning, so they don’t have to deal with the setback commonly seen in calves that are not vaccinated until they arrive at the feedlot. There’s much less adverse effect on a calf that’s given pasteurella vaccine in his home environment, with less stress,” he explains.

Smith Thomas writes from Salmon, Idaho.



INSTANT PROTECTION: Young calves receive vaccinations.



Calf brucellosis vaccination

In states requiring heifer vaccination for brucellosis (Bang’s disease), all heifers must be vaccinated sometime between 4 and 12 months of age. “Many people do it at weaning, when they are handling the heifers,” says James England, University of Idaho.

“There are only 13 states that require calfhood Bang’s vaccination. The states that really push it are those that surround Yellowstone Park,” he says. This is because wildlife can carry brucellosis, and the elk and bison that come out of the park often mingle with cattle herds.

“Here in Idaho, any replacement heifers you might purchase somewhere else must be vaccinated before they come into the state and must come in on a permit. This health certificate would have to show that the heifer had been vaccinated for brucellosis at a certain age and have the Bang’s certificate and ear tag/tattoo that goes with it. Otherwise, that animal would not be allowed into the state,” he explains.


VACCINATING CALVES: Students and crew at the University of Idaho Ranch vaccinate calves.

This article published in the April, 2015 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2015.

Animal Health

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