Now that the cow herd expansion has begun, many producers are keeping heifers as potential replacements. One question commonly asked is what vaccines are necessary in Kentucky to develop quality females and keep them healthy. The guidelines set forth in this article are designed to help answer that question for replacement heifers from weaning until breeding. Remember, to get the most bang for your buck from any vaccine, the immune system must be in tip-top shape. The goal is to vaccinate heifers in good body condition, on a good plane of nutrition including adequate trace minerals, and under the lowest stress level possible. Nutrition is exceptionally important for proper heifer development because too fat or too thin will result in less than ideal performance. Today’s vaccines are safer and more effective than any time in the history of cattle production. However, the sheer number and types of vaccines and dewormers available today can make the correct selection of products challenging at the very least. Every farm has a different set of disease risks but your veterinarian is equipped with the knowledge and skills to determine what will work best for your unique situation.

Talk with your veterinarian before instituting any health protocol.

If possible, it is best to administer vaccines to calves 2-3 weeks prior to weaning because they are under very little stress and typically have a great immune response. Be aware when two doses of a modified live (MLV) respiratory vaccine are required by label directions, only use modified live vaccines in calves nursing pregnant cows if the cows were vaccinated with MLV in the last 12 months (check label for specific requirements). If this requirement is not met, a killed vaccine must be used until the calf is weaned. If pre-weaning vaccinations are not an option, try to administer vaccines after the stress of weaning is over (the calves are eating, drinking, and the majority have stopped walking and bawling). For heifers at low risk of disease such as those born, developed and weaned on the same farm, it is possible to wait 7-10 days post-weaning before vaccinating. However, any time calves are commingled from different farms or purchased from outside sources greatly increases their odds of getting sick. Vaccinations should be done promptly (within 24-48 hours of arrival) in commingled groups of calves. Always follow label directions carefully regarding dose, route of administration and how long to wait before giving the booster.

The following is a list of recommended vaccinations for replacement heifers at weaning. Bear in mind your veterinarian may suggest additional vaccines or deem some of these unnecessary. These are simply guidelines of the most important pathogens we attempt to defend against with vaccines.

Heifers at Weaning

1. “5 way” (IBR, BVD Types 1 and 2, PI3 and BRSV) viral respiratory vaccine and booster- *Modified Live (MLV) strongly recommended.

2. Mannheimia haemolytica toxoid – May use a combination product with the 5 way viral respiratory vaccine if desired (for example: Pyramid 5 + Presponse SQ/ Bovi-Shield Gold One Shot/Vista Once SQ).

3. 7 way Clostridial (blackleg) and booster if required by label direction.

4. Deworm with an endectocide (examples: Ivomec, Dectomax, Eprinex, Cydectin, LongRange).

5. Test for BVD-PI (ear notch or serum)-Exceptionally important in purchased heifers and also heifers from farms with a history of reproductive problems (abortions/ stillbirths/ weak calves). See instructions.

6. Optional Practices:

  • Pasteurella multocida and/or Histophilus somni (formerly Haemophilus somnus) vaccine
  • Brucellosis vaccination-Consult your veterinarian – US is Brucellosis free.
  • Pinkeye Vaccine-depending on season of the year.
  • Anaplasmosis Vaccine-Consult your veterinarian.

Heifers 30 -45 days Prior to Breeding

1. Combination viral respiratory vaccine with Campylobacter fetus (Vibriosis) and 5-way Leptospirosis. Modified live and Fetal Protection (FP) product is recommended. The second (booster) dose should be given at least 30 days prebreeding-follow label directions as guidelines differ between products.

2. 7 way Clostridial (Blackleg).

3. Deworm with a quality product-Remember a heifer is under increased nutritional demand because she is still growing herself and getting ready to reproduce. Don’t let parasites steal the weight needed by the heifer to cycle and get pregnant. Use a product effective against internal and external parasites and know how long it should last. A drench dewormer may be used but a second product will be required for external parasites such as flies and lice. Again, your veterinarian is your best unbiased information resource when selecting dewormers.

Additional Considerations:

1. *Modified Live Vaccines (MLV) provide faster, broader immunity and are better stimulators of cell-mediated immunity. They are generally preferred and usually required by most preconditioned sales. However, only use modified live vaccines in calves nursing pregnant cows if the cows were vaccinated with MLV in the last 12 months (check label for specific requirements). If this requirement is not met, a killed vaccine must be used until the calf is weaned. If label directions are not followed, abortions could potentially occur.

2. The goal with health protocols for replacement heifers is to give them a broad range of protection against respiratory and reproductive diseases and prevent weight loss due to parasites. By administering vaccines and deworming 30-45 days prior to breeding, conception rates are maximized and losses due to reproductive disease are largely prevented.

3. If heifers have been allowed to stay with the herd bull until weaning, most likely some are pregnant. A prostaglandin injection (for example, Lutalyse®) can be given to the heifers once they have been away from the bull a minimum of 10 days. These injections work best in early pregnancy so do not delay administration if needed.

4. Try to minimize the number of vaccines given at one time as much as possible. At least use both sides of the neck if giving multiple injections.

5. Keep good vaccination records. Record date, vaccine name, serial numbers and expiration dates.

6. A viral respiratory vaccine includes IBR, BVD Types 1&2, PI3, and BRSV. These are often called “5-way” vaccines but can also be referred to as a “4-way” or “6-way”. These may come in the form of modified live vaccines or killed preparations. Work with your veterinarian to develop a sound and safe vaccination strategy for your herd.

Examples of Vaccine Types

Below are several examples of the different types of vaccines available commercially. This is not an exhaustive list; there are far too many products to include all that are manufactured. Where trade names are used, no endorsement is intended, nor criticism implied of similar products not named.

1. Viral Respiratory Vaccines-Most require or highly recommend a booster-Check the label a. MLV: Express FP 5, Pyramid 5, Vista 5 SQ, Bovi-Shield Gold 5, BRD Shield, Titanium 5 b. Killed: Triangle 5, Vira Shield 6, Cattlemaster Gold FP 5, Master Guard

2. Mannheimia haemolytica toxoid-Many do not require a booster a. Once PMH SQ or IN, One Shot, Presponse SQ or HM, Pulmo-Guard PHM and PHM-1, Nuplura PH

3. Combination viral respiratory vaccine with Campylobacter fetus (Vibriosis) and 5-way Leptospirosis

  • MLV: Bovi-Shield Gold FP 5 VL5 HB, Vista 5 VL5 SQ, PregGuard Gold FP 10, Express FP 5-VL5
  • Killed: Cattlemaster Gold FP5 VL5, Virashield 6+VL5 HB