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Are Booster Vaccinations Needed for Beef Calves?

September 7, 2016

Soon beef cow-calf producers will be separating calves from cows, and many will precondition those calves through a weaning and vaccination program to help ensure calves remain healthy through the sale and shipping process. Precondition programs are well established with protocols having been set by both marketing organizations and pharmaceutical companies.

In general, protocols are very similar between those developed by marketing organizations and those by pharmaceutical companies. Both generally recommend calves be weaned for at least 45 days before sale. Both recommend that calves be vaccinated with IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, 7-way clostridial vaccine, Mannheimia haemolytica and Haemophilus somnus. One recent difference comes in the recommendation of whether to use booster vaccines for most or all of the listed diseases.

Most protocols developed by marketing organizations continue to include booster vaccinations as part of the program. However, more of today’s vaccines do not offer label instructions to repeat vaccination in two to four weeks as they previously have. The technology of vaccine manufacturing continues to improve and the need to give booster vaccinations for some products isn’t necessary. Michigan State University Extension specialists and educators continue to recommend giving booster vaccinations. Giving booster vaccinations even with today’s technology advancements allows for a higher immune level and a second opportunity to develop a strong immune system if vaccine failure occurred during the first round of shots. The second round should be given three to four weeks after the first round to ensure a high level of immune response.

Producers choosing to follow pharmaceutical protocols that do not require booster vaccinations for all listed diseases are strongly encouraged to carefully read and follow label instructions. Utilizing single dose protocols requires diligence that vaccines are administered properly and according to instructions. Producers are also encouraged to purchase vaccines early to avoid problems associated with the high demand coming into the autumn months associated with weaning and vaccinating.

Preconditioning beef calves is an important management technique used to improve the health of calves as they enter the most stressful period of their life. For more information on preconditioning beef calves, contact Frank Wardynski, Ruminant Extension educator with Michigan State University at or 906-884-4386.

Source: Frank Wardynski, Michigan State University Extension