Here are seven springtime management suggestions that will provide reproductive protection through breeding and gestation, plus build strong calf immunity to maximize their growth potential and be immunologically prepared to transition to the feedlot in the fall.

Hill kevin
Marketing Specialist / Quality Scales Unlimited
Kevin Hill heads up the marketing efforts and provides technical expertise to the sales and servi...

Work with your veterinarian to build a health protocol specific to your herd

Your veterinarian is the best resource you have to identify the pathogens and disease challenges that are most important in your area. Vaccinations for cows should be focused on optimizing conception and preventing abortion, while prevention of respiratory disease is the most important element of calf vaccinations.

Vaccinate cows in the spring whenever possible

Three to six weeks before breeding is the ideal time to vaccinate cows for maximum reproductive protection. The focus is to protect against reproductive pathogens that can interfere with conception or trigger abortions. Administering a combination vaccine can accomplish this in one dose. And don’t forget to include trichomoniasis testing for bulls in your health protocol. There are no vaccines for trichomoniasis, so testing is the best option available.

Vaccinate calves for respiratory protection with a target on fall marketing health programs

Spring is often our first opportunity to prime the calf’s immune system, so they rapidly respond to weaning vaccinations. The viruses of concern that need to be included in a vaccination program are infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV). The most prominent players for bacterial pneumonia are Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida. Look for combination vaccines that address all the important respiratory viruses and both bacteria.

Use intranasal vaccines in calves that are younger than 5 months old

Intranasal vaccines stimulate a strong immune response directly on mucosal surfaces in the nose – the major route of respiratory infection in cattle. Intranasal vaccines also are less stressful on young calves than vaccines given under the skin and escape interference from maternal antibodies in colostrum.


Eliminate internal parasites before turnout

There’s no shortage of evidence that shows if parasites are effectively eliminated, the cow will eat more, milk better and produce a heavier calf. Because of documented parasite resistance to ivermectin products, the most effective strategy to control internal parasites should include fenbendazole. Using that product with an ivermectin pour-on for external parasites will achieve a near 100-percent parasite kill. Consult with your veterinarian to assist with the diagnosis, treatment and control strategies for internal parasites.

Control pinkeye with vaccination and management

Because pinkeye is a significant health problem in many parts of the country, a combination of vaccination and fly control is recommended for complete control. Fly tags in cows and calves can be very helpful in areas with heavy fly pressure.

Consider implanting all calves at branding

Implanting a calf will add 20 to 25 pounds to the weaning weight and an extra $40 in revenue for just a $1.25-per-head investment. Unless a producer has a solid contract for a “natural” program that guarantees a premium of $40 or more, implants should be part of his spring turnout program for all calves older than 1 month old.

After you have taken the steps to ensure optimal calf health, be sure to document the products and practices you have used. A signed certificate, especially one signed by your veterinarian, will add value to your calves. Documentation should comprise of vaccination, parasite control and other treatments, including the product, what it’s for and the date applied. Print a copy to accompany the calves when they go to market. Buyers pay $15 to $35 more per head for calves with that kind of documented health history.  end mark

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Kevin Hill

Kevin Hill
Technical Services Manager
Merck Animal Health

Photo by Progressive Cattleman staff.