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Starting High-Risk Calves

Starting Vaccine Programs for High-Risk Calves

1. Multi-source calves must be tested for BVD Persistent Infection (PI). BVD PI testing has become more common and is a simple, and for the most part, a logistically reasonable management practice. Testing incoming cattle will insure that you are not receiving previously tested PI positive calves that might have been returned to a sale barn. It is just too risky to not know the PI status of these calves.

2. As a general rule we do not mass medicate incoming cattle. Exceptions are made depending on the source, time of year, number of cattle and any specific pathogen that we may be particularly concerned. According to antibiotic sensitivity testing and our own experience, extended-acting Ceftiofur appears to be one of the more effective antibiotics against the bacteria that cause pneumonia the first few days after arrival (Mannheima, Histophilus, and Pasteurella). Other antibiotics may work as well. We try to avoid using the same class of metaphylactic antibiotic that we will want to treat sick calves with later.

3. We feed a starter ration with an ionophore for coccidia control and good, quality hay.

4. When it comes to vaccination there are a few choices to be made. A clostridial vaccine (7 or 8 way) is a given along with a de-wormer. The most important consideration in designing a vaccination protocol for BRD is to cover the most prevalent pathogens. The organisms most commonly isolated from cattle diagnostic samples submitted to our laboratory are:
Mycoplasma Bovis, Mannheimia Haemolytica Type 1, Mannheimia Haemolytica Type 6, Histophilus Somni, Pasteurella Multocida.
There is no single vaccine that covers all the pertinent organisms in one bottle. Often a significant pathogen is left uncovered by standard vaccination protocols. Pneumonia-causing bacteria reside and live in the upper respiratory tract of most calves without ill effect. Not all calves carry all the bugs all the time, but, all the bugs are in some of the calves all the time. If a calf is immunologically susceptible to one or more of these bacteria and the organism is able to migrate from the upper tract down into the lung, then pneumonia begins. The effect of the stress that occurs in the life of the high-risk calf is the trigger to a compromised calf immune system that leads to bugs in the lungs and pneumonia. A sound approach is to try and vaccinate calves against all the potential pathogens that we know could cause problems, while minimizing stress through good husbandry.
In a perfect world all calves would be vaccinated properly for BRD prior to weaning, but, if this were to actually happen along with a 45 to 60 days preconditioning period, there would be no “high-risk” calves. Since the high-risk calves are coming to us with little or no proper vaccination prior to their arrival, then the best we can do is to vaccinate them as soon as possible and hopefully get some level of immunity established in time to prevent/limit infection and disease.
5. What BRD vaccines do we use in the high-risk calf?
We have observed less than desired results in high-risk calves that received a live virus vaccine containing modified live BVD1 and BVD2 on the day of arrival and then boosted with a live BVD containing vaccine within 35 days, especially if they were boosted around 14 days. BVD virus is most well-known for its ability to suppress the immune system of the calf. It would make sense that administering an immunosuppressive live virus by way of a vaccine to an already stressed and immunologically challenged calf is likely not the best idea and may induce further ill effects. Boosting a calf too soon before its body systems have not had time to fully recover from the effects of stress (which we believe to be at least 30 days) with more live immunosuppressive vaccine virus is really a bad idea. These comments are not implying that giving a booster is bad but revaccinating with a vaccine that contains live fractions of BVD prior to 35 days after arrival is a risky decision. Administering a booster dose of an inactivated (killed) vaccine is a necessity and should be done when possible. It should occur around 14 days and according the product label. Also, revaccinating at 14 days with a live virus vaccine that either contains no live BVD or a live vaccine that contains killed BVD is acceptable.
(Read the directions for use on vaccine cartons and labels. Most modified live virus vaccines do not recommend a booster dose at all, much less when it should be given.)

6. BRD Vaccination Protocol Option No. 1.
Day 0 – Super Poly-Bac B plus IBRk&BVDk
Myco-Bac B or Autogenous Mycoplasma Bovis Bacterin with or without BVD1b, BVD2
Day 7 – Myco-Bac B
Day 14- Super Poly-Bac B plus IBRk&BVDk
Myco-Bac B or Autogenous Mycoplasma Bovis Bacterin with or without BVD1b, BVD2
7. BRD Vaccination Protocol Option No. 2.
Day 0- Super Poly-Bac B Somnus or Poly-Bac B3, or Super Poly-Bac B plus IBRk&BVDk
Myco-Bac B or Autogenous Mycoplasma Bovis Bacterin with or without BVD1b
with the addition of one of the following modified live vaccines:
a. Stimulator 5 (IBR, PI3, BRSV, BVD1a, BVD2) or another similar 5-way
b. Stimulator 3 (IBR, BVD1a, BVD2) or another similar 3-way
c. Multi-Vac 3 (IBR, PI3, BRSV)
d. Intranasal 3-way vaccine (IBR, PI3, BRSV)
Day 7- Myco-Bac B
Day 14- Super Poly-Bac B Somnus or Poly-Bac B3 or Super Poly-Bac B plus IBRk&BVDk
Myco-Bac B or Autogenous Mycoplasma Bovis Bacterin with or without BVD1
A non-modified live BVD-containing Virus vaccine (Optional)

Day 35- If a non BVD-containing modified live virus vaccine booster was not given on Day 14, then a booster dose of modified live virus vaccine may or may not want to be administered depending on the cattle and the situation.
8. An autogenous vaccine can be custom made against organisms that are currently being isolated from sick or dead calves on a specific premise of origin if authorized by a veterinarian. This is a good way to fill the uncovered gap sometimes unavoidably left by commercial vaccines that either do not contain or are not effective against certain pathogens. For example, BVD1b is not currently found in any commercially-available vaccine but it is the most common of the BVD subtypes found in the U.S. Also, an autogenous Mycoplasma Bovis Bacterin would allow for the use of multiple current isolates from the premise of origin.

9. Treating sick cattle should be done under the order of your veterinarian. The vet and cowboys will know more about what is working more than anyone because they see and know the calves. As a general rule, we get along fairly well treating first pull BRD cases with florfenicol (by the label, 6cc cwt, two times, 48 hours apart) and short acting ceftiofur (by the label for the three days in a row). We temp every pull, but, treat on how they look.

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