When designing a vaccination program for a dairy there are many variables to consider. Increased movement and purchase of cattle with today’s larger herds puts additional stress on the vaccination program as disease risk rises, says Victor Cortese, DVM, PhD, Pfizer Animal Health.

Cortese advised audience members at the AABP-ACC meeting in Albuquerque, N.M., to ask the following questions when developing a vaccination protocol.

  • What is the presence and degree of challenge of particular diseases on the dairy?
  • Are there management practices on-farm that lend themselves to or hinder the implementation of vaccination programs?
  • At what age or time does a disease problem occur? The timing may give some insight into stresses that are occurring in the management of the animals.
  • Is the herd open or closed? At what age is the farm purchasing animals?
  • Are calves raised offsite or on the dairy? If raised off-site when do they return to the home operation?
  • What type of breeding program is in place? Are clean-up bulls used? If so what is the source of the bulls and what age are the bulls purchased at?

Other advice offered included basic questions that need to be asked about vaccines under consideration for a vaccination protocol. Cortese recommends for veterinarians to ask:

  • What immune system components are necessary to afford protection against the various diseases?
  • What does the label indicate for duration of immunity and maternal antibody interference?
  • Are there warnings or restrictions on the use of the particular vaccine?
  • If you use the vaccines in calves, have maternal antibody studies been performed?

Bottom-line ask the questions and ask for data, recommends Cortese. Especially if using a vaccine in the first two months of a calf’s life.