By Kevin Hill, D.V.M
Springtime preventive measures before turnout can help increase the health and productivity of your cows and calves. With this post, we begin a two-part series by Kevin Hill, D.V.M., technical services manager with Merck Animal Health, that explores this important prevention period. This post focuses on how to best protect the cows during the critical breeding and gestation periods. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on calves.
Because spring management decisions are key to the health and reproductive efficiency of a cow herd, cow/calf producers need to carefully consider the nutrition, vaccination and parasite control decisions that are made prior to spring turnout, and set up a strategy that will keep the cow healthy and productive. Work with your veterinarian to make sure you have covered all the bases for diseases and conditions that are prevalent in your area.
For convenience, many cow herds are vaccinated in the fall during preg-checking. However, the ideal time to vaccinate for maximum protection is prior to the breeding season, not after. For maximum protection against the bacteria and viruses that can interfere with conception or cause abortion, cows should be vaccinated three to six weeks prior to bull turnout. This will help ensure that protective antibody titers are highest when they are needed the most.
Focusing on the pathogens that could interfere with conception or trigger abortions, every spring turnout vaccination program should include protection against:
• Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) – A respiratory disease that also causes abortions.
• Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) – Causes abortions but also interferes with conception.
• Vibriosis – Caused by Campylobacter fetus. Bulls can spread it from cow to cow, causing infertility and abortions.
• Leptospirosis – A bacterial disease that causes abortions.
Internal and external parasite control also is another task to initiate before spring turnout. Because of emerging resistance to ivermectin products, an effective deworming program should include a fenbendazole product to help ensure a more complete parasite kill. Collecting fecal samples the day of deworming and again 14 days after treatment to monitor fecal egg counts is the best way to determine if your deworming is working effectively.
Be sure to document any vaccinations, parasite control or other treatments that the cow receives. With today’s high-dollar investment of a pregnant cow, now is a good time to work with your veterinarian to make sure you have the proper vaccination, nutrition and parasite treatment measures in place.