Timing vaccination against scours
While spring calving seems a long way off, proper vaccine timing could begin yet this year if your herd calves early in the season.
Prioritize scours prevention to protect the next calf crop. Scours is a potentially fatal infection spread through fecal matter that leaves young calves no desire to nurse, weak, dehydrated and with watery and discolored stools. Helping protect calves from scours is more than practicing good animal husbandry — healthy calves early in life have shown to be more productive later in life.
Following best management practices and properly timing scours vaccination can help prevent scours before calves are born. In their earliest hours of life, calves receive scour-fighting antibodies by consuming colostrum from their dams. Because of this, timing of vaccination related to colostrum production in the cow is critical.
It’s recommended that naïve heifers receive two rounds of scours vaccination — their first dose should be given three to four weeks before the second dose. Previously vaccinated animals need a single annual booster.
Mother Nature designed cows and heifers to make colostrum between three and five weeks prior to calving. Knowing the dam concentrates the antibodies from her blood to antibodies in the colostrum at a ratio of 3:1 to 4:1, our goal is to get maximum titer in the cow’s bloodstream when they are making colostrum.
We also know it takes 10 to 14 days after the second vaccination for heifers or annual booster vaccination for cows to stimulate peak antibodies in the dam’s blood. To provide adequate time for antibodies to reach their maximum level in the dam and to be transferred to the colostrum while at peak blood levels, I recommend administering ScourGuard® 4K or ScourGuard 4KC about six weeks before calving.
For example: If most of your herd begins calving Feb. 1, colostrum will begin forming around Jan. 1. Ideal timing for vaccination is mid-December for the second dose on heifers or as an annual booster for cows. Remember to use pregnancy-check information as a resource to pinpoint timing of the scours vaccination.
Helping prevent scours is achieved by following best management practices and providing proper nutrition, with vaccination being the capstone of a scours prevention program.
To help prevent scours, I recommend producers:
- Ensure good nutrition and health for the cow herd.
- Reconsider introducing any new animals into the cattle herd during calving season.
- Move cows that have already calved away from those yet to calve.
- Provide clean, dry bedding in calving areas and clean the area frequently.
- Implement a properly timed vaccination program knowing that for the best level of protection, one must work with the cow’s biological system.