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Animal Health

Nutrition and management emphasized in vaccination protocols for cattle

Written by Natasha Wheeler

Riverton – Producers should focus on nutrition and management long before vaccinations ever come into play, said a Lander Veterinarian on Feb. 11 at Fremont County Farm and Ranch Days.

“We don’t treat problems, and we don’t vaccinate problems. We manage them. Poor management decisions, just like poor nutrition, will wipe out any benefit of a vaccine,” stated Jessica Blake from Lander Valley Animal Hospital.

Nutrition 

Feed analysis, according to Blake, is where nutrition should start.

“This is so simple to do, but so many of us are not utilizing this tool,” she noted.

By sending hay samples to a lab, producers can determine which nutrients are abundant or deficient in the diet of their cows.

“If a producer needs help, they can call a vet or the Extension office. They will be happy to give any assistance needed for collecting those samples and getting them mailed out,” she added.

Once nutritional composition is determined for areas of a producer’s operation, management decisions can be implemented to ensure cattle are getting the maximum benefit of their feed.

Management decisions

“We can only manage what we measure,” Blake commented.

Good health records help producers track changes and health concerns in their herd.

“We need to keep records and learn to control what we can while working within our environment,” she continued.

Vaccinations, Blake commented, are the last component of a herd health program.

Vaccinations

“Vaccination is a tool that we use along with management. We are training the immune system to recognize and contain pathogens,” she explained.

Timing, preparation and repetition are important in a good vaccine protocol.

“Get the right kind of vaccine at the right time and give it the right way,” she advised.

Ordering should be done ahead of time to allow for any out-of-stock items, and producers should plan for booster vaccines and follow up accordingly.

“Athletes don’t just develop one skill and never work on it again. They work on every skill that they need, every day. Likewise, repetition in vaccination is important for training the immune system,” she noted.

Options

Choosing a vaccine can often be influenced by factors that are not necessarily the most beneficial, such as tradition, neighbors or environment.

“Markets are also going to become more influential on the decisions that we make,” Blake added.

Consumer concern over antibiotics and animal welfare will influence how feedlots administer medications in the future, and the effect will trickle down to cow/calf producers.

“We are also influenced by our vaccine consultant, advertising, marketing gimmicks, price and availability,” Blake continued.

Protocol

Blake encouraged producers to base their vaccination programs on operational goals.

“When I am developing a vaccine protocol, I sit down with my client and have them fill out a five-page questionnaire about their herd,” she explained. “I want to know everything.”

Blake’s questionnaire asks producers about their calving rates, conception rates, range schedules, breeding schedules, breeding locations such as the barn or pasture, branding schedules and more.

“I want a feed analysis first and foremost. If a producer is not willing to do a feed analysis, there is not a whole lot that I can work off of without that information,” she commented.

Setting a program

Once all of the data is collected, Blake works with her clients to create a 365-day vaccination calendar.

“We look at the risk assessment, diseases of concern and goals before picking vaccines that are best suited to that producer’s environment, goals and needs,” she stated.

The calendar includes dates for administering vaccines, as well as notes about which vaccines to use and when to order them so producers are prepared with all of the right materials.

“There are 150 different vaccines on the market today for the routine things we vaccinate for. We can make a decision, but we can not make a wise decision in five minutes or less,” she commented.

She encouraged producers to be intentional about their vaccine programs, with a plan and protocol for who administers what, when and how.

“We should get professional help if we need it and talk to people who know more about it than we do,” Blake said.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..