This article first appeared in the Vet Advisor, the magazine of Cambridge Veterinary Services, and has been reproduced with their kind permission.

Protecting your valuable future money earners is a vital part of your animal health program.

The most important early vaccination is Blackleg. The vaccine for this disease also covers some other related diseases like Tetanus, Pulpy kidney, Malignant Oedema, and Black Disease which can cause problems in quite young calves. Blackleg is a common disease. Calves are usually found dead so vaccination is the best form of control as heavy losses can occur.

This vaccine can be given from a few weeks of age and requires a booster shot four to six weeks later. One booster shot as a yearling will give immunity for life. This vaccine in inexpensive especially compared with the huge losses possible. It can be obtained from a vet clinic or your veterinarian will be happy to call and administer it.

Nasal Catarrh is a disease most often seen in Jerseys although it may also be seen in Friesian heifers. The IBR virus, among other agents working in combination, causes this and is often associated with pneumonia in young stock also. Adult cows have a constant nasal discharge which is irritating. They often cause damage and obstruction of nasal passages with sticks when itching these.

The vaccination for this disease helps control the problem and is best given as early as possible before calves have picked up the virus. This is a fragile vaccine and is administered by your vet.

The most important vaccination from the animal and human health aspects is the Leptospirosis vaccination. Leptospirosis causes red water and deaths in calves and has been associated with abortions and mastitis in cows. In humans, it causes severe flu-like symptoms with headache, diarrhoea, weight loss, and stomach pains being only some of the symptoms. The disease is hard to treat and very debilitating with some people needing months off work. It can also recur at later stages of life.

It is vital that a calve's primary vaccination program is completed properly otherwise it will never be protected as boosters in future years will not be effective. Calves can be done from six months of age and a booster is required four to eight weeks later. An annual booster must follow and if not done annually will lapse and future vaccinations will not work! Hence a controlled vaccination program is required. Also with the new OSH regulation employers need to be seen to be doing the maximum to prevent diseases of this nature.

Bovine Virus Diarrhoea, which causes scours and mouth ulcers in calves and abortions and reproductive faults in adults can be vaccinated also if necessary.

If you have any questions on vaccinations or the diseases they cover then discuss these with your vet who will be happy to give you a suitable vaccination program for your stock.