Vaccinations and antibiotics are hallmarks of herd health

To ensure herd health and help with herd immunity, producers should consult with their veterinarian to implement a vaccine and antibiotic plan for their herd.

Proper use of antibiotics and vaccines can keep a herd healthy. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

In an effort for overall herd health and herd immunity, producers should consult with their veterinarian to have a vaccination and antibiotic plan in place for their herd.

“There are a number of vaccines that are available on a commercial basis, and it is always best to visit with your veterinarian about which vaccine you should use on your livestock. There may be some vaccines that one producer would use on their herd, but the same vaccine may not need to be used on a different producer’s herd, and your vet can help with those decisions,” said Gerald Stokka, NDSU extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist.

Many producers in the Northern Plains opt to vaccinate their herd with a vaccine that is known as a five-way vaccine. The five-way vaccine itself holds five different viruses. In addition, producers can choose to implement killed or modified live vaccines to their herd; Stokka recommends producers consult with a veterinarian to figure out what is best for their herd.

It is important to note, however, that vaccines are extremely specific and will not protect your stock from everything.

“Sometimes we get a misperception that if we vaccinate our calves with a five-way viral vaccine with a bacterial component that they will never get sick; well, that simply isn’t true. This is because there are other pathogens that can cause infectious disease,” Stokka said.


However, when producers implement and follow a sound vaccination plan, they are helping ensure not only the current health of their herd, but also the future health of their herd.

“The more animals you can get immunized in a population, the number of animals immune increases. That is what we call herd immunity, and once you have a level of herd immunity that is high enough, the virus or whatever you are trying to control can’t really spread in the population,” Stokka said.

With a big enough portion of a producer’s herd vaccinated, it will slow down the animal-to-animal transmission of viruses and help raise overall herd health and herd immunity.

Boosters are also an important part of a vaccination plan. Producers should consult with their vet on what vaccines have booster doses and when to administer the boosters to their livestock. Producers should also keep in mind that not only calves need to be vaccinated; cows need to stay up to date on their vaccinations as well.

Another hallmark of herd health is the use of antibiotics when they are needed.

“Antibiotics are a tremendous tool. The beauty of the antibiotic selection that we have today is that it includes some of the most broad-spectrum, powerful antibiotics that we know of. They are very effective when they are used correctly,” Stokka said.

Producers should take a look at the withdrawal period on the antibiotic they are administering. The withdrawal period is the time between when the antibiotic was given to the animal and the time the animal can be slaughtered for consumption. The withdrawal period ensures that the antibiotic has left their system before the animal is harvested.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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