Zoetis: Mixing cattle prime time for respiratory disease


With many cow/calf producers elbow deep in calving season and trying to tackle calf scours, it’s hard to think about the next big disease challenge for the new offspring. But Dr. Mark Alley, Technical Service Veterinarian for Zoetis says preparing those calves for respiratory disease challenges is vital for every cattle operation.

We had the opportunity to catch up with the veterinarian, who covers cow/calf and stocker/backgrounder operations from Georgia to Maine, at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association where he said the big thing to remember is while those calves do get some protection through the colostrum for a 2-to-3-month window, that’s also the period where we begin to see some of that viral protection, specifically BRSV and IBR, begin to wane.

“As a result, if we do some mixing of those cattle, whether we are trying to process for branding or get those cows up to go through a synchronization program or breeding program, what research has demonstrated is these calves are at increased risk of developing respiratory disease primarily because of that bunching of cattle together,” Alley said. “That is prime time for us to begin our vaccination program. It allows us an opportunity to protect the calf at a vulnerable time and also an opportunity to prime the immune system for the weaning event.”

When building a vaccination program, Alley said the first step is to start a vaccine program that will prime the calf’s immune system. One way, Zoetis has found success in doing that is through intranasal vaccines. 

“Regardless of what the cow’s vaccination program is if we use some of the intranasal products on the calf while it is nursing we can get good protection for that calf while it is still nursing but also do a great job of priming the immune system for that weaning period,” Alley said.

For those producers that had a less than successful calving season this year, some new research from Auburn University that is to be released later this month may shine a light on a new strategy Zoetis is working to implement. And it all comes down to why we vaccinate cows.

“The reason we are vaccinating cows is partially to protect the cow but realistically it’s to protect the fetus while in utero or for the calf shortly after calving,” Alley said. “One of the things we have done is looked at research to find alternatives that producers can use and still provide some of that protection for that calf in utero.”

However, Alley said one of the big management concerns has been how to incorporate a modified live program into a cow herd as challenges such as management and proper timing can arise.

“One of the things that we have learned is that it is easier to manage the use of modified live vaccines in heifers. Since heifers are managed as a separate group, it is easier for producers and veterinarians to follow label warnings regarding pregnancy and presence of nursing calves,” Alley said. “Based off the research recently completed at Auburn, we have been able to demonstrate very similar IBR and BVD Type 1 and 2 protection if we use modified lives in heifers and then transition the cow herd to a hybrid vaccine like Cattlemaster Gold FP.”

We’ll keep you updated on this new approach as Zoetis releases more information at the end of the month.

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