Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 26 September 2017

One less vaccination next spring

Wouldn’t it be great to have one less vaccination to carry out during the spring?

There is more than enough work on farms around Ireland at the moment and there is barely enough help to get all the jobs done.

Disease prevention is therefore more important than ever, as the system is at break point even when everything is working, so a few sick animals is more than many can cope with. Dropping a vaccine for the sake of it would be fool hardy, but planning ahead and moving elective work to a quieter time of year might be a smart move.

Traditionally, heifers are vaccinated against Lepto in mid-February and they receive their second vaccination in mid-March when all the cows receive their annual booster; a lot of work and handling at a busy time of year.

It is now possible to booster cows against Leptospirosis at any time of year; it doesn’t have to be done in the spring.

Spirovac can be used to protect cows and heifers against Lepto infections and this vaccine provides 12 months duration of protection.

But, most important, the vaccine can be given ANY TIME OF YEAR thus at a more convenient time than spring, perhaps at drying off.

If cows were vaccinated last March, they will need a booster this March and then next spring’s vaccine could be brought forward to drying off this autumn; and simply repeated every November/December thereafter.

Traditionally heifers receive their first course of Lepto vaccinations as yearlings, just before they go to the bull.

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However, there is a risk that they may already have been infected during their first grazing season, due to the protection gap that appears after the immunity they received in the colostrum has waned and before they are vaccinated.

With Spirovac, calves can be vaccinated from four weeks of age before this gap opens up and when they are still very easy to handle. 

Heifer calves can receive their first vaccination at turnout and the second dose could be given four to six weeks later when they might be in the yard for a worm dose. Choosing to start your Lepto protection programme earlier with Spirovac reduces the risk of developing Lepto carrier animals in the herd, alongside reducing shedding from existing carriers.

Spirovac is the only Lepto vaccine available which is proven to have this dual function and therefore offers the most robust protection available.

Lepto is still an important disease on Irish farms causing abortion and poor fertility in cows. It is also unfortunately a zoonotic disease, meaning that people can also become infected. 

Infection occurs when infected urine from cattle comes in contact with a human’s mucous membranes e.g. mouth, nose, eyes or with broken skin e.g. 'hacks' on ones fingers, common at this time of year. Controlling Lepto on farms involves boosting animals’ immunity using a vaccine like Spirovac and reducing exposure to the spirochetes that cause Lepto. 

Easy to handle calf being vaccinated with Spirovac at about 4 weeks of age before turnout
Easy to handle calf being vaccinated with Spirovac at about 4 weeks of age before turnout

The disease spreads easily in open water courses, so piped well water will reduce the risk. Carrier animals can be bought in, be it heifers, cows or bulls, so maintaining a closed herd also reduces the risk.

 To reduce the work load next spring and to have a robust control programme in place for Lepto;

  • Give the cows and heifers their booster as normal this March
  • Give the calves their first Spirovac vaccine at turn out and then a second injection 4 to 6 weeks later, when they may be in the yard for dosing
  • Give the cows, in-calf heifers and weanling heifers a booster of Spirovac in the autumn when drying off the cows
  • Maintain a closed herd
  • Reduce or eliminate cattle contact with open waterways.

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