Cattle Vaccination

Vaccinating your herd

Annual vaccinations in your milking and beef cows are important for a few reasons:

  • Boosting the immunity of the milking herd to common and/or important diseases
  • Ensuring the colostrum fed to your calves has abundant antibodies to these common/important diseases
  • To protect yourselves and workers from diseases transmitted by cows

Most vaccines are given as a killed version of the pathogen - this stimulates the vaccinated animals immune system to recognise that virus/bacteria as foreign. The body makes antibodies, which remain in the bloodstream ready to act the next time this animal is exposed to that pathogen. The antibodies will also be present in colostrum.

Some vaccines are given as modified live versions of the pathogen - these give the animal a weak version of the disease and in some cases are dangerous to use in pregnant animals. It is always worth checking when the best time to use a vaccine if you are unfamiliar with using it.

The common vaccines:

7in1 (killed vaccine) vaccination for protection against the major clostridial diseases and Leptospirosis. It is important to use this vaccine to prevent leptospirosis in people.

Pestigard (killed vaccine) Used in herds where the risk of introduction of pestivirus is likely to lead to significant losses. It may also be used as part of an eradication program in herds diagnosed with active pestivirus infection. Before embarking upon a vaccination program for pestivirus discuss your options with one of our vets.

Piliguard (killed vaccine) A vaccine to make stock more resistant against pinkeye, especially important in young cattle. Piliguard works best when given a month prior to the fly season so should be used on calves in early spring.

Vibriovax (killed vaccine) ALL BULLS should be vaccinated against vibriosis, the last dose given 6 weeks prior to joining. In herds with a history of vibriosis it is beneficial to vaccinate the cows 4-6 weeks prior to joining

Bovilis (killed vaccine) If your herd or calves have had salmonella outbreaks it is important to boost calf immunity through vaccinating the cows in a timely manner. Initial vaccines are best 8 and 3 weeks prior to calving and boosters 4-6 weeks before calving. Please note the vaccine will only be effective if it contains the same strain of salmonella as present in the vaccine. Laboratory diagnosis of salmonella is essential before vaccination.

Scourshield (killed vaccine) Useful in farms where calf scours is an annual issue and coronavirus, rotavirus and or E. coli have been diagnosed as contributing factors. Appropriate vaccination of the cows and good colostrum management will aid in prevention of these conditions. In previously unvaccinated herds and in heifers Scourshield is administered as two doses 4-6 weeks apart. The second of these doses and the annual booster is best given at dry off 6 weeks prior to calving. For success with Scourshield, sound colostrum management protocols need to be followed.

For best colostral antibody levels to be transferred to the calf, it is important to have accurate predicted calving dates. This will allow for administration of vaccines at the correct time.

Which of these vaccines does my herd need??

The MUST DO's:

7in1 - this covers for a lot of sudden death syndromes and Leptospirosis. Lepto can cause serious health risks for any stock workers coming in contact with urine or uterine fluid. Some vaccines will not prevent shedding of lepto in urine, for this reason we recommend Ultravac 7in1.

Vibriovax for bulls, annually

If pinkeye has been a problem in your weaners or herd, vaccinating them at least one month prior to the appearance of dust and flies can greatly reduce the number of stock affected. This vaccination is especially important in young stock.


In herds using numerous vaccines at drying off it is important not to overload the immune system so giving more than two different vaccines within a week of each other can render them less effective. Scourshield is better used alone and should not be administered within a week of Bovilis.

If you have any questions on how best to tailor this advice to your herd please speak to one of our vets at the clinic