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Coastal 101 | Animals

Vaccinating Your Cattle

February 2, 2018

Vaccinating is an important part of owning cattle. From choosing the right vaccinations for your herd and working with a veterinarian, to proper storage and disposal, we’ve put together a quick look at the vaccines you should have on hand, when to work with a vet, and how vaccines work to improve the health of your animals.

Vaccine Basics

Here in the Pacific Northwest, there are several vaccines you’ll want to ensure your animals get on a regular basis. These include ones you can buy and administer without a vet, such as Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVD), and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IRB, BHV-1), as well as a vaccination for Brucellosis, which must be administered by a licensed and accredited veterinarian.

As with human vaccines, the ones you give to your herd are designed to stimulate the body’s immune system and build up a resistance to the disease you’re vaccinating against. When you give a vaccine, your animal’s immune system will produce antibodies to kill off the disease. Then, memory cells are created to fight off future invading viruses. To maintain those memory cells, you need to vaccinate regularly based on veterinary advice and manufacturer labels.

Types of Vaccines

There are two types of vaccines: killed and modified-live. With killed, the virus is grown and then inactivated with chemicals or heat. These usually require two separate inoculations over a handful of weeks. IBR, BVD, and BRSV are available as killed vaccines. A modified-live vaccine is made from a weakened virus. This ensures the vaccine will not cause the disease in a healthy animal. These are usually unstable and more difficult to use, but can be very effective against IBR, BVD, and BRSV as well as others.

Storing and Disposing of Vaccines

Anytime you buy a vaccine, read the label carefully. Many require exact refrigeration and reduced contact with ultraviolet light (sunlight) to ensure they remain effective. A mini refrigerator with an adjustable thermostat and no light is a great way to protect your investment and your herd from ineffective vaccines. Be sure to set the temperature between 35-45º F or as suggested by the manufacturer or your veterinarian.

When vaccines need to be disposed of, you are allowed to throw them out with your household trash in Oregon and Washington. Other states may have more restrictive laws.

Using Vaccines

Giving a vaccine involves more than simply measuring a doze and administering it. If you’re new to giving vaccines, be sure to consult with your veterinarian first.

Know What You’re Injecting: Read the label carefully before using a vaccine or other medication. The dosage or proper injection locations can change depending on the manufacturer and other criteria.

Stay Safe and Clean: Flailing cattle can injure you and your animals. Using a chute or other form of handling facility can ensure proper vaccination and your safety. Additionally, it’s best to clean and dry your cows hide before giving a vaccine. This can cut down on infections and other issues that could occur.

Use the Right Tools: The right needle size and length is very important when giving specific vaccinations. Your veterinarian can show you what size and length to use for specific vaccinations and injection sites. A general rule-of-thumb is that calves require a smaller 18-gauge needle while mature cattle require one that is 16-gauge or larger.

Keep a Vaccination Record

A simple notebook can do the trick, as can a nice spreadsheet. Or talk to your veterinarian about developing a vaccination calendar. This will help you remember when to give the next one, plus it gives you a chance to get out to your nearby Coastal to pick up the vaccines you need.

Get Your Vaccinations at Coastal

Stop by your Northwest owned and operated Coastal where you’ll find a full line of vaccinations from veterinarian approved manufacturers. While you’re there, you’ll find everything you need to keep your animals happy and healthy, including stock-tank de-icers, heated hoses, and special feed.