|The presence of calf scours is often an unwanted guest during spring calving season.
Good management alone is sometimes not enough to protect the calf from scours, and so cattle producers turn to practices like calf vaccination to head off diarrhea in their spring calf crop. “There are, however, pitfalls to early vaccination that can put your calves at risk,” says Bobbi Brockmann, director of sales and marketing with ImmuCell Corporation.
One problem with vaccinating calves at birth is the high concentration of maternal antibodies found in colostrum. These maternal antibodies can interfere with the calf’s immune response to a vaccine. This is because they cannot distinguish between the antigens of a natural challenge and those in a vaccine. When this happens, the maternal antibodies neutralize the vaccine, rendering it useless so the calf does not receive the scours protection intended by the vaccine.
“This also is the reason why some scours vaccines currently on the market require a delay in colostrum intake,” says Brockmann. “However, any time there is a delay in colostrum intake, the calf is put at greater risk for failure of passive immunity.”
Another problem is newborn vaccination is not immediate immunity. The calf must respond to the vaccine in order to develop antibodies. This process takes time, during which time the calf is vulnerable to disease. Mounting an immune response to a vaccine is also a drain on the newborn calf’s limited energy reserves. This energy, instead of being diverted toward an immune response, could be better used for body temperature regulation, growth and to fight off disease.
To overcome the challenges of newborn calf vaccination, cattle producers can turn to the immediate immunity available in USDA-approved antibody products. Concentrated antibody products can be fed to calves at the same time as colostrum so there is no interference with maternal antibodies and no waiting for a response from the calf’s immune system. It also means less stress because the calf does not have to divert its precious energy reserves from maintenance and growth to mounting an immune response.
Antibody products are available in bolus, gel and powder forms. They also are included in some colostrum replacer and supplement formulas for added value.