Vaccination Schedules and Routine Treatments

Reasons for Vaccinations and Routine Treatments

  • Reduction in antimicrobial usage
  • Easier to schedule and organise labour
  • Prevents decrease in live weight gains of reduced milk production
  • Reduces the risk of diseases spreading throughout the herd
  • Prevents deaths and ensures a healthy herd
  • Less stress on the animals since moving as a group
  • Managed and planned costs which can be taken into account when planning cash flow. Parasite control by routine treatments not only reduces the damage to parts of the animal, e.g. liver fluke but less build-up of parasite on the pasture

Vaccinations and routine treatments are an investment, even if they don’t give a direct financial reward. Caring for the needs of animals is a partnership between vet and farmer that benefits the farmer, the animal and the consumer.

Fewer injections with antibiotics equate to a lower risk of muscle damage, less risk of antibiotics entering the food chain and healthier livestock means more of the carcass can be used.

Vaccinations and routine treatments should be tailored to the farm and the herd. Regular discussions with your vet, to make sure you are getting the right treatments and the right vaccinations at the right time, is vital.

Two of the major causes of losses in beef suckler farming are calf scour and pneumonia. While indoors, the risk of disease is increased because the animals in the herd are in close contact with each other. Controlling the cattle housing to reduce the risk of these and other diseases is a priority. Many of the vaccination schedules or routine treatments are carried out prior to, or at, housing, while others are carried out at turnout.


We might think of vaccines as a more advanced form of medicine than using antimicrobials in the battle against disease but, they have been around for a longer period of time than many of the antibiotics we use.

It is thought that vaccination began in 1796 with Edward Jenner using cowpox material to protect humans against smallpox. Then, in 1885 Louis Pasteur discovered a rabies vaccine.

The middle of the 20th century was a very active time for development of both vaccines and antimicrobials. But now, with resistance to antimicrobials in both the animal and human world increasing, preventative medicine is preferred.

There are a vast array of vaccines now available for cattle. It isn’t possible, in this article, to cover all the different types of farm animal vaccines and schedules. Each farm has different risk factors and aims of production. To make sure your herd is protected, it is useful to discuss with your vet what the risk factors are on your farm, what vaccines are available and how best to implement a disease prevention program for your herd.

Vaccinations to prevent calf pneumonia

There are many different bacteria and viruses which can cause calf pneumonia. For the spring calving suckler herd, the greatest risk of pneumonia is post weaning and at housing. The timing of weaning and housing is affected by the age of the calf and body condition score of the cow. Calving early in the spring allows calves to be weaned and vaccinated in advance of housing. All vaccines need a period of time between administering the product and antibodies developing. Other factors to consider is whether the vaccine requires one or two doses before full immunity is provided. The number of vaccines required can depend on the age of the calves being vaccinated.

Vaccinations to prevent calf scour

Calf diarrhoea is a greater problem in housed cattle compared to those being born outside. Vaccination against some of the major causes of scour can be given in the period prior to calving, which causes the dam to produce antibodies. These antibodies, provided in the colostrum, help protect the calf from developing disease.

The timing of vaccination of the dam will depend on when cows or heifers will be expected to calve and the type of vaccine being used. It is good practice to have the herd pregnancy diagnosed.

For the scour vaccine to be effective the calf needs to absorb sufficient antibodies from the colostrum. The general guide is that the calf should receive 10% of bodyweight as colostrum within six hours of birth. In subsequent days, although the antibodies are not being absorbed, there is still some protection to the gut against pathogens such as E.coli K99, Rotavirus and Coronavirus.

Routine Treatments

Routine treatments using antimicrobials are now discouraged for farm animals and this includes watery mouth in lambs. The majority of routine treatments that are now given are for parasites. The three major parasites for cattle are roundworm, lungworm and liver fluke.


A vaccination to prevent lungworm is available. For this to be effective, the first dose should be given 6 weeks prior to turnout and the second dose 4 weeks later. Calves that have been vaccinated for lungworm still require routine treatments or monitoring for roundworms.

Alternatively routine use of anthelmintics can be used to control bovine lungworms (Dictyocaulus viviparus).

Roundworms - Parasitic Gastroenteritis (PGE)

During the summer months, monitoring for roundworm can be done using faecal egg counts. This is more cost effective if ten samples are taken and a single pooled test is carried out. Monitoring growth rates can also be done using weigh scales to get an indication if parasites could be reducing growth rates.

Hypobiosis of Ostertagia ostertagi can occur during the winter months when L4 stage larvae remain dormant in the gastric glands. As they are not mature parasites, no eggs are being produced and faecal worm egg counts can give false negative results at this time. The danger is that when all these L4 mature gradually or in burst during the spring, it can result in major damage to the intestines, diarrhoea and an ill thriven animal. Many farmers will worm cattle that have grazed for the first time at housing.

Liver Fluke

Another parasite which can cause ill thrift in cattle is liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica). This parasite has a complex life cycle which involves an intermediate host of the mud snail. Most often this is G. truncatula, other species of snail such as Radix spp can support parasite development. These may be more common in upland, peaty environments.

Snails feed on algae that float on the top of the mud or slow moving water with a neutral pH. This life cycle means that liver fluke is more of a problem in certain areas of the United Kingdom and less common in others. On some farms, it is possible to fence off all wet areas or areas of slow moving water.

With routine treatments for liver fluke there is a concern about a resistance to triclabendazole developing. This flukicide can treat down to the 2 week stage for sheep and cattle. Use of triclabendazole should be reserved for acute liver fluke in areas where resistance has not developed. Other flukicides are more effective for liver fluke aged greater than 7 weeks. Therefore, for housed cattle it is often better to wait until at least 7 weeks after housing before treatment. In areas where there is a heavy fluke burden, treatment should be given at housing to prevent liver damage and then again after seven weeks.

There are only a few flukicides which are licensed for use in dairy cattle. Please give us a call for further information on the use of flukicides in dairy herds.

Cattle infected with F. hepatica are thought to be more susceptible to other infections, including Salmonella Dublin and Clostridium spp. There are no vaccines available for liver fluke, but there are for Salmonella and Clostridial diseases.

The use of routine treatments and vaccinations requires an integrated approach. Local veterinary knowledge combined with farm knowledge can help in developing ongoing herd health planning. Give us a call to help you keep your herd healthy.

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Vaccination Schedules and Routine Treatments
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