When margins get tight, it’s only logical to look for places in your budget to save money. And animal health is a line-item that often falls under the microscope.
However, be careful when searching for cost-cutting measures in this area, particularly when it comes to vaccines. Keep in mind, they are an investment in future herd health. Trying to attain short-term savings could result in higher expenses down the road.
“I remember one herd that had a scours problem,” says Scott Poock, University of Missouri veterinarian. “We added a scours vaccine into their vaccination protocol. After several years of good results, the farm decided that it would try to save money by not vaccinating.” Unfortunately, the scours problem reoccurred and the farm quickly started to vaccinate again.
Here’s why you should remain vigilant with your vaccination program.
Obviously, you vaccinate animals for a variety of diseases, and at different stages of life, to improve animal health and increase economic returns. Vaccinations against E. coli mastitis provide a good example. But what is the performance cost or gain if you decide to use — or not use — this tool?
According to research published in the October Journal of Dairy Science, cows vaccinated with a J5 bacterin produced 16.7 more pounds of milk per day in the 21 days following an incidence of clinical mastitis than cows that did not receive the vaccine. In addition, vaccinated cows lost 13.2 to 33 fewer pounds of milk per day in the 21 days following coliform clinical mastitis cases versus non-vaccinated cows.
“A reduction in the loss of daily milk production following a case of clinical mastitis, whether for all cases or only those caused by coliform bacteria, is an important benefit of J5 vaccinations,” says study author David Wilson, a veterinarian at the University of Utah.
Every stage affected
You can find corresponding examples at virtually every stage of development.
Experts at Virginia Tech note that studies consistently demonstrate that calves with respiratory infections are almost twice as likely to leave the herd — and that can lead to higher replacement costs. As of Oct. 13, heifer calves brought as much as $700 in some areas. And springing heifers were as high as $2,325. It’s much cheaper to vaccinate heifers against respiratory diseases.
And, you must consider the risks you incur in terms of lost productivity and performance. Research from The Netherlands, reported in the June 2002 Livestock Production Science journal, indicates that the body weight of heifers afflicted with bovine respiratory disease is reduced by about 22 pounds by three months of age and up to 63 pounds by the time the heifers are 14 months old.