Dr. Dave Wilson was the vet for a beef production farm in Nebraska. This farm happened to be the home of a 40,000 head herd, giving him more than a little experience in keeping them healthy and doing it in the most efficient way possible.
The idea behind Wilson’s practice is centered on pre-conditioning, whether with vaccines, reproduction or with reducing stress on the animals. It is to increase the efficiency, potency and viability of the methods used for the cattle.
Before giving any type of vaccine or performing any type of veterinary treatment, Wilson says it is important to run the animals through the chute a few times. “This gets the animals into a good system flow and will not stress them out,” said Wilson. This should be done for a few days before the real event.
A cow’s immune system needs three weeks to respond to any type of vaccine, disease or pathogen, says Wilson. Therefore, vaccines should be given three to four weeks before weaning. All cows should be placed on a good mineral program as well. “A basic mineral block is not good enough,” said Wilson, to support the vaccines which will be used.
Before starting a vaccine regiment, it is important to know there are two main types: Modified and Kill.
Modified vaccines will get a better immune response and it can be given to the calf so long as the mother has seen the vaccine before.
Kill vaccines don’t work as well as modified vaccines and it can be harsh. However, it only requires two doses so it is considered a convenient method. The mother also doesn’t need to be exposed to it for the vaccine to be given to the calf.
It should be mentioned, though, to only get the amount of the vaccine you actually need. “Once [the rubber seal on the vaccine] is punctured there is only two weeks before the vaccine goes bad,” said Wilson.
At the end of the day, however, you should be following the recommendation of your vet, who is familiar with your herd and your operation. It is also recommended to do vaccinations in the morning when it is cooler for the comfort of yourself, your staff and your animals. The biggest rule, however, is to read the labels.
Wilson already mentioned that running the cows through the chutes prior to vaccinations will make the process easier and decrease the amount of stress on the cows. Reducing stress is a great benefit, says Wilson.
“Stressed cows have hormones that override the immune system — it overrides the vaccines,” said Wilson. A vaccinated stressed cow can essentially just be a cow without vaccination, meaning the dose was a waste of time and money.
Deworming could also be a waste if not done properly. Deworming is based on weight and as long as you’re close to the ballpark then the dewormer should be effective. However, if you’re not close, then you’re wasting dewormer or it is just not effective.
The use of a scale is the best way to keep track of weight. Weight tapes will bring you close to the true weight, but as antibiotics and many other treatments are based on weight, a scale should be implemented and used.
Deworming for calves should take place at weaning. “Mature cows are used to [worms] so they don’t get a dewormer,” Wilson said. Older cows have been exposed to worms and are able to handle them naturally. By not giving a dewormer to animals who don’t need it, dewormer resistance is reduced.
Keeping a record of production based off of measurements is also a great idea and can help keep track of a lot of data, including weight.
As for pour-on antibiotics, Wilson has two suggestions: Don’t pour on in the sun and be careful of pouring in the rain. This is because it is needed to absorb into the skin, so it can make the skin more sensitive temporarily or the rain will wash it away.
For castration, Wilson was very specific. It is better to do sooner rather than later. “Two testes, two bands. And check calves daily as they’re running through.”
If banding is done when the calves are two or three months of age, vaccinations and tetanus shots should be given two or three weeks prior to castration. This ensures the vaccines are fully in the immune system and will work immediately if there is a problem.
Wilson also suggest dehorning. This procedure should be done at six months of age or when weaning. “You can have your vet show you how to do it,” Wilson said, but cautioned about performing the procedure without knowledge and experience.
At three weeks of age, an application of lidocaine and the use of a butane burner are the tools to be used when making the dehorning as painless as possible.
If there is debate on where to get the best immune response for vaccines, Wilson has the answer. The best immune response come from cattle’s nostrils. “Snot Shots” should be used to counteract many issues and diseases. When using it, Wilson suggests to “put both cc’s in one nostril and there will be an immune response in 72 hours.” If further doses are needed, alternate the nostril used.
Wilson’s point was to keep people from using methods which were inefficient or destructive to the overall health of their cattle, keeping time and resources under wraps.