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Posted: 03/07/2023
Angus calves standing in a field in spring

Vaccination Planning to Protect Calves

Spring calving season is here! With it comes a surge of supply gathering and general preparations as well as important planning for vaccination programs. Vaccination is a key part of preventative health management for every herd. You should always consult with your veterinarian to plan a vaccination program designed to meet the unique needs of your operation. Until then, here’s a preview of what vaccines calves need and when they need them. We’ve also included a section with links to our customers’ favorite products that you might consider for your herd, too.

Small Angus calf peeking behind mother cow

What Vaccines Could be Given to Calves?

Vaccines protect animals from a variety of diseases that can be harmful to the animal itself, and the operation’s bottom line. With single and sometimes multiple doses, vaccines trigger an animal’s immune system to identify and fight disease. Here are some of the diseases that producers are vaccinating for and why they can be harmful to a herd:

  • Blackleg is a fatal disease in cattle (and sheep) that affects large muscles. Lesions and swelling develop after animals bruise or ingest clostridial bacteria spores from the soil. Most cases arise in animals 6-24 months old, but they can be older. Sudden onset brings severe lameness to hind legs and animals become depressed. In some cases they may die before you catch any signs.
  • Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is devastating in cattle populations and impacts animals of all ages. The disease can stem from bacteria and nutrition issues, but is also known to make an appearance in stressed calves. Watch for fever, depression, discharge and low appetite. Viruses that contribute to BRD include Pneumonia and Parainfluenza (PI3), as well as:

    • Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV): the severity of this respiratory virus increases with exposure, and can actually instigate secondary bacterial infections.  
    • Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR): a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a herpes virus that can lead to fever, cough, and nasal discharge. IBR also can lead to pneumonia.
    • Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD): this high-fever illness is resistant to antibiotics. It brings on bloody diarrhea and often leads to pneumonia.
  • Pinkeye is treatable, but it’s far more economical to prevent it with early vaccination. Pinkeye (infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis) is an irritating eye disease that is difficult to spot but easy to spread. Secretions from infected animals spread throughout the herd – both in close quarters and in the pasture via flies that spread bacteria from cow tears.
  • The Leptospirosis vaccine is often recommended for breeding cattle. Lepto infections cause infertility and poor milk production in beef and dairy herds. When it infects pregnant animals, Leptospirosis can lead to an abortion rate of up to 30 percent when infections happen in the last third of gestation. It’s a contagious bacterial disease in many animals that can be transferred via swine and others on the farm. Leptospira organisms get shed from infected animals’ urine and contaminate pastures and drinking water (among other things).
Many vaccines are administered via injection (subcutaneous, intramuscular or intravenous) but some can be given intranasally or orally.

Calf Vaccination Timeline

While there are differing ideas on vaccination timelines depending on each management system, this approach below is effective in helping develop immunity for calves that stay at your facility for 45 days following weaning.

Key vaccines can be delivered when calves are 2-3 months old to provide initial immunity against BRD and clostridial organisms. The BRD vaccine is a modified live vaccine and protects calves against IBR, BVD, BRSV and PI3. Clostridium 7-way (or 8-way if needed) vaccines help prevent clostridial diseases including Blackleg and Pinkeye.

As you approach weaning, you may need additional shots or “boosters” of previously given vaccinations to give the immune system even better preparation to fight diseases encountered when the calf enters a new social circle. Some suggest deworming calves during this time as well. Usually boosters are recommended between 3-6 weeks after the primary dose. Be mindful of each vaccine’s prescribed timing as improper delivery can result in failure to protect the adult animal (even with annual boosters).

Unlike BRD and Clostridium vaccines, Mannheimia/Pasteurella, is directed for first-dosage at weaning. This vaccine protects against bacteria that can lead to BRD and respiratory issues with economic impacts.

A 3-4 week post-weaning booster may be required by your specific marketing venue, so be sure you plan ahead as needed.

Customer Favorite Spring Vaccine Products

Now that you know about common diseases calves can get vaccinated for, here are a few of our customers’ favorite vaccine products to consider.

Clostridium 7-Way Vaccines

Clostridium 7-way vaccines prevent clostridial diseases including Blackleg and Pinkeye:

  • Bovilis 20/20 Vision 7 with SPUR Cattle Vaccine  contains a combination of seven different clostridial antigens and also includes the SPUR adjuvant, which enhances the immune response of the animal to the vaccine. The age at which Bovilis 20/20 Vision 7 with SPUR vaccine should be administered to calves can vary depending on the management practices and disease risk factors of the specific herd.
  • Alpha-7/MB-1 Cattle Vaccine - The only single-dose vaccine that provides protection against 7 major clostridial diseases, including blackleg, malignant edema and tetanus, as well as Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida, which can cause respiratory disease. It is recommended for calves at 2 to 4 months of age, with a booster dose given 4 to 6 weeks later.
  • Ultrabac 7/Somubac Cattle Vaccine - This vaccine provides protection against Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida, two common bacteria that can cause respiratory disease in cattle. It also includes protection against seven major clostridial diseases. It is recommended for healthy calves 3 months of age or older, with a booster dose given 4 to 6 weeks later.

Respiratory Vaccines with Lepto

BRD Vaccines help prevent disease caused by IBR, BVD, BRSV and PI3. Some also include leptospirosis, so be sure to read label instructions carefully and get the product that makes most sense for your animals.

  • Bovi-Shield GOLD FP 5 L5 Cattle Vaccine  is a vaccine developed by Zoetis for the prevention of common respiratory and reproductive diseases in cattle caused by viruses and bacteria. The vaccine is a combination of five-way viral antigens and five Leptospira bacterial strains. The five-way viral antigens included in the vaccine provide protection against common bovine respiratory viruses, including infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), and parainfluenza-3 (PI3). These viruses are known to cause respiratory infections in cattle and can lead to decreased growth rates and other production losses.
  • Triangle 10 HB with Enhance Cattle Vaccine - This vaccine is developed by Zoetis and is designed to provide protection against 10 common respiratory and reproductive diseases in cattle, including bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), and Leptospira. The vaccine also contains an adjuvant called Enhance, which helps to enhance the immune response of the animal to the vaccine.
  • Vira Shield 6+VL5 HB Somnus Cattle Vaccine - This vaccine is developed by Elanco and is designed to provide protection against six respiratory viruses, including IBR, BVD, and BRSV, as well as five Leptospira bacterial strains and Haemophilus somnus, which is known to cause respiratory and reproductive diseases in cattle.
  • Pyramid 10 HB Cattle Vaccine - This vaccine is developed by Boehringer Ingelheim and is designed to provide protection against 10 common respiratory and reproductive diseases in cattle, including IBR, BVD, and BRSV, as well as Leptospira and contains an adjuvant to enhance the immune response of the animal to the vaccine.
You’ll find these and many more products in our cattle vaccine comparison chart for quick and easy referencing. If you have a favorite among these, please leave a review on our product page. We appreciate your experience and want your valuable input!

It is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your herd based on the specific disease risks and management practices in place. The veterinarian can also provide guidance on the proper administration technique and handling of the vaccine to ensure its effectiveness.

Get Safe, Secure Vaccines from PBS Animal Health

Our team works tirelessly to ensure reliably sourced and responsibly shipped vaccines get to our customers. That means we buy straight from the manufacturer and handle them with care every step of the way. It’s one reason why we’ve been a trusted distributor in the animal health industry for more than 80 years! If you have any questions about our calf vaccine product availability, vaccine shipping process, or maybe want to learn more about bulk/volume quantity ordering, contact our team at +1 (800) 321-0235 or We’re here to serve you.

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