RICH HILL, Mo. — Good vaccination programs keep Pearson Land & Cattle profitable. The commercial cow-calf operation sits near river bottoms in southern Bates County, Mo.
“We have a pretty healthy supply of flies and a strong tick population,” said ranch manager Carl Steiger.
This means stringent vaccination protocols are essential for their success.
They vaccinate twice yearly for leptospirosis and have recently vaccinated against anaplasmosis.
“This year was the first to use the anaplasmosis vaccine. It’s an experimental drug from Louisiana State University,” Steiger said. “You give two shots 30 days apart, then booster it annually on the cows.”
Cows receive their first leptospirosis shot 30 days pre-breeding.
“If we bought open heifers, we give them a modified-live once, then go back to the Vira Shield twice annually,” he said. The second shot is given at preg-check.
“Over the years I’ve done Vira Shield once. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so close to the river, but I get more open cows and have even lost some young calves right after birth due to leptospirosis,” Steiger said.
Calves undergo a more rigorous treatment. Pearson Land & Cattle vaccinates for blackleg and pinkeye when the youngest calves are about one month old. They give two pinkeye shots, one of which is autogenous. The autogenous includes cultures from their herd and targets strains found in the area.
At four months old, calves receive their first modified-live vaccine and another blackleg shot. Thirty days later, they get a modified-live booster and a third blackleg shot.
Extra work pays off
It’s three times through the chute in less than six months, but Steiger says the performance pays off.
“That’s the way those calves sell,” he said. They are weaned and sold at six months, ready to go.
Pearson Land & Cattle sells through Top Dollar Angus, which verifies the genetics of his calves. With the genetics and vaccine program, often buyers pay a premium.
“Last year the heifers were bought by a Top Dollar Angus representative and sold for a $100 a head premium,” he said.
Most of the time, their heifers will bring the same or more than steers and go back as replacements.
Multiple vaccinations strengthen the animal’s immunity. And modified-live vaccines provide better protection for calves as they mature, he said. But not every producer can run cattle through the chute five times a year, so it’s important to properly time vaccinations, starting with the calves.
Trent Callahan, with Bates County Veterinary Clinic, said vaccine companies used to recommend two boosters. But new studies show a single booster is sufficient.
“That’s what we end up doing a lot anyway because it’s hard to get them run through two weeks later or two weeks apart prior to weaning,” Callahan said.
Booster shots are still important, though.
“A booster does make a big difference in your calves’ immunity,” he said. “We generally use modified-live on calves at branding and a blackleg shot. Then we give a booster shot at weaning.”
Combining boosters with a modified-live vaccine provides a quicker response through cell-mediated immunity.
Once calves mature, producers should switch to killed vaccines, he said. Callahan said most of his clients vaccinate cows when they preg check.
“I feel like you get your best immune response pre-breeding, but that’s hard to get done in most situations,” he said. “But I see very little health detriment to vaccinating at preg check.”
No matter the timing, though, proper storage and handing is crucial to success.
“Definitely make sure your fridge is working,” Callahan said.
Pearson Land & Cattle keeps all vaccinations in a designated refrigerator in the barn.
“When I pick it up from the vet, I’ll get a cooler with ice. I keep it in a cooler at the chute until we’re working cattle,” he said.
Avoiding sunlight is important too.
“The adjuvants that make your vaccine work will be denatured by the sunlight and temperature,” Callahan said. “You’re basically killing the bug and only giving a portion of the organism.”
Recent studies show shaking the bottle vigorously can have the same result.
“Don’t shake it even though it says ‘shake well,’” he said. Instead, producers can gently turn the bottle on end four or five times to mix the elements.
Finally, it’s important to use different syringes for each vaccine.
“Not all adjuvants mix well with each other,” Callahan said.
To avoid cross contamination, rinse syringes with hot water after each use. And don’t use disinfectants.
“If you’re bleaching out syringes and that’s left in the syringe, you can wipe out every bit of vaccine,” he said.
Pearson Land & Cattle goes a step further and uses a different needle for each cow. This prevents anaplasmosis caused by transferring infected blood between cows.
“I hate doing it and it takes time. But if it contributes to saving one cow, it’s worth it,” Callahan said.