Lower treatment rates and less chronic illness resulted in a death rate in whole herd vaccinated animals of only 0.4 per cent
Minimize disease, optimize production and improve the bottom line. These are the all too familiar goals of cattle producers across Canada. When a disease like bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) strikes, it can severely impact all three.
BVD spreads quickly through a herd resulting in a varied list of complications. It can affect reproductive performance, calfhood disease, weaning weights and feedlot performance. The disease is particularly harmful when a fetus is infected. Early embryonic loss, abortion, stillborn calves and the birth of persistently infected (PI) calves or those with congenital defects are just some of the effects seen when susceptible cows are exposed to a virulent field strain of BVD virus.
The good news is that BVD can be controlled through vaccination. And, as many producers are finding out, following a whole-herd immunization protocol has benefi ts beyond minimizing disease by enhancing the producer’s reputation with buyers.
Before we get into the benefits, here is a quick refresher on BVD vaccine protocols.
Traditionally, calves received just one round of BVD protection prior to leaving the herd of origin — a spring vaccination for all four major viral diseases, IBR, BVD, BRSV and PI3. Wholeherd immunization programs move beyond that to include the breeding herd, offering fetal protection in an effort to protect calves from BVD before they are born. For optimal immunity, whole-herd immunization protocols also recommend that calves have a second vaccination in the fall about four to six weeks before sale.
While a single spring calf vaccine is certainly a more convenient approach, particularly when you are pressed for time and your budget is tight, new data show that the benefits of whole-herd immunization far outweigh the convenience of a single spring vaccination. Since 2002, Pfizer Animal Health has tracked the health and buyer satisfaction ratings for 15,339 calves sold by several Ontario cow-calf clubs. Of these calves, 13,152 were part of a whole-herd immunization program while the remaining 2,187 only received a spring calf vaccination.
Just how well do whole-herd immunization programs work?
According to the data, whole-herd vaccination is contributing to overall herd health, giving producers the peace of mind that their animals are less prone to disease. For example, feedlot operators that purchased these calves reported a 60 per cent reduction in bovine respiratory disease (BRD) treatment rates when compared to animals that only received a spring calf vaccination.
With reduced BRD treatment rates, feedlots also experienced a 55 per cent decline in the number of chronically ill animals in the herd. And, better yet, lower treatment rates and less chronic illness resulted in a death rate in whole-herd vaccinated animals of only 0.4 per cent, half the number of deaths experienced in animals that only received a spring vaccine.
While controlling BVD PI calves is responsible for a portion of these health benefits, a properly implemented BRD immunization protocol in conjunction with immunization for shipping fever, histophilosis and clostridial diseases including a booster vaccination before weaning, are also important to ensuring healthy calves after arrival at the feedlot.
But, the benefit doesn’t stop there. We’ve all heard the saying: You are only as good as your reputation. A key piece of building your reputation in any industry is consistently delivering a quality product. Doing so enhances your reputation with buyers who may, in turn, be willing to pay a higher price for a higher quality product.
As part of the research, buyers were asked to consider their overall satisfaction with the cattle they purchased based on health, purchase price and post-purchase performance of the animals. The latest sale data shows a 98 per cent buyer satisfaction rate for cattle in a whole-herd vaccination program, a vast improvement over 2002’s rate of 35 per cent of buyers of spring vaccinated calves.
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Dr. Robert Bell is a veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health’s cattle team