The season is here for cattle producers when weaning and vaccinating spring-born calves becomes a must. The care and attention to animal health products is an absolute necessity.

If you suffer from sticker shock when you order or pick up the vaccines for your herd health program realize that there is not much you can do to lower these costs without putting your animals’ health at risk, but you can do some things to ensure you are getting your money’s worth of protection.

The first thing to consider is that not all animals are created equal when it comes to their ability to mount an immune response. It would be nice if animals had a gauge, like a fuel gauge, that would read their level of immunity following vaccination so you could tell who was protected and who was not. The fact is you cannot tell by looking so you must optimize your management to maximize the immune response. Animals that are on a poor plane of nutrition, especially for protein, copper, and zinc, will not respond well to vaccines. Very young and very old animals cannot respond strongly. Animals that are suffering from other health problems or that are convalescing are not able to respond well to your vaccination program. Stressed animals are limited in their ability to respond immunologically, so letting hauled or shipped cattle rest for several days before vaccinating and handling cattle quietly to minimize stress will pay big dividends when it comes to response to your vaccines.

Most biological products need to be stored under refrigerated conditions. Assuming that placing them in a refrigerator accomplishes this is not enough. A research study showed the majority of refrigerators used to store vaccines were not cold enough or even worse, were too cold and froze the products. If you do not have a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator get one and use it. Vaccine labels will provide optimum storage temperature. Nothing is worse than to think you are protecting your animals with vaccines, only to be unknowingly shooting blanks.

When cattle-working day arrives, continue to care for your vaccines. A small ice chest with frozen cold packs will keep the products cool in the summer and safe from freezing in the winter. Many biological products come with two portions to be mixed when ready for use. The manufacturer knows what he is doing and there is a reason for this. Once they are mixed, they start gradually losing effectiveness. Never mix up more than you can use in 30 minutes for maximum immunological response.

Herd health programs are like insurance. Every producer needs it, but all producers do not need the same coverage. Your local veterinarian will know what problems he or she is seeing in your area and what products are most likely to reduce the incidence of these problems. Consult your local vet in designing a program tailored to fit your needs. You cannot afford to be without the protection you need, nor can you afford to pay for protection that is not needed.

Animal health products should represent a significant portion of your production costs, so make sure you are providing the management needed to maximize the response to these products. Herd health products will help you be profitable if you use them in a manner to maximize their effectiveness.

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Nelson is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educator for Garfield County.

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