Page Title

Getting the Most Out of Your Biologicals


Discussion of common animal health products along with proper storage, handling, and administration. Charlie Stoltenow, D.V.M.; Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine; NDSU Extension Veterinarian, NDSU Department of Animal Sciences; Lisa Pederson, NDSU Extension Beef Quality Assurance Specialist, NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center

Calf After Branding

Branding and turnout time is approaching quickly! Getting cattle out on summer pastures is much anticipated after the long, drawn-out winter we have had. Branding and turnout time provides opportunities for us to get together with old friends and neighbors, to assess the calf crop, and to immunize cows and calves against common diseases.

This article will discuss some timely and important tips to remember when working cattle. These tips will help you get the biggest bang for your buck out of your animal health products. But before we discuss steps to help improve the efficacy of our preventive products, we think that reviewing some common terminology would be good.

Injecting a Calf

Biologicals are made up of bacterins and vaccines. Bacterins prevent against bacterial diseases such as anthrax, and vaccines prevent against viral diseases such as bovine viral diarrhea (BVD). Both bacterins and vaccines are available in killed, modified-live and live biological products. The other class of animal health products is pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals are medicinal drugs that are used to treat a variety of conditions. Some products included in the pharmaceutical class of veterinary products are antibiotics, reproductive drugs, and anti-parasitics such as dewormers.

Herd health vaccinations are a good protection tool but are rarely 100 percent effective. Herd health preventive protocols are not 100 percent effective for a variety of reasons, including exposure to high levels of disease-causing pathogens, animal or herd stress, age, nutrition, vaccinating against the wrong pathogen, poor-quality vaccine, and poor vaccine handling and administration. We will focus on “proper vaccine handling and administration” in this article and provide some tips to help improve the efficacy of the biological you are using.

In preparing for vaccinating your herd, the first thing we recommend is for you to visit with your veterinarian about the products you should use in your herd health program. Your local veterinarian is the best gauge of disease issues in your area

Common cattle diseases that producers vaccinate against in the northern Plains include Mannheimia haemolytica, P. multocida and H. somnus, Clostridium C&D, Tetanus (a must if castrating), Anthrax, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) virus, Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (Types 1 & 2), Parainfluenza3 (PI3) virus and Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV).

Also, administering an anti-parasitic to both cows and calves at branding/turnout time may fit into your overall preventive health management plan.

A special note: Do not forget to treat your bulls. Bulls often are overlooked because they are not worked or turned out at the same time as the cows and calves, but making sure the bulls receive adequate protection also is important.

Always purchase animal health products for use in your herd from a reputable source. Products that have been stored at temperatures that are too cold or too warm or are exposed to sunlight will be less effective (or maybe not effective at all) than those ideally stored. Be sure to take your biological products home in a cooler.

Checking the temperature of the refrigerator you will be storing your biologicals in is good management. Biologicals should be kept between 35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit for nearly all preventative products. A 2008 study completed in Arkansas showed that only 26.7 percent of refrigerators kept the temperature within the acceptable range for biological products. Research shows bacterins and vaccines that are kept at temperatures that are too cold are equally, if not less, effective than products kept at temperatures that are too warm. Checking the temperature of your refrigerator could save you a lot of money, headaches and sick cattle.

Prior to working cattle, you should read the label of the products you are planning on using. On the label, look for the following important information:

  • Class of animal to be administered to (calves vs. cows vs. bulls)
  • Disease(s) the product prevents against
  • Dosage
  • Route of administration, such as intramuscular (IM), subcutaneous (sub-q), intranasal, topical (pour-on)
  • Slaughter (or milk) withdrawal time
  • Expiration date
  • Quantity of contents
  • Warnings or precautions - for example (this example is taken directly from a package and does not imply any endorsement of this product): Do not use in pregnant cows (abortions can result) unless they were vaccinated, according to label directions, with any Bovi-Shield GOLD FP PregGuard GOLD FP vaccine within the past 12 months. Do not use in calves nursing pregnant cows unless their dams were vaccinated within the past 12 months as described above.
  • Product name, manufactures name and lot and/or serial number

While administering the product, handling it properly is imperative. Do not mix more product than you can use within 30 minutes. Keep all products and syringes in a cool, dark place. Both heat and sunlight decrease the efficacy of biologicals. Do not use disinfectants on needles or in syringes. Disinfectants kill biological products and greatly decrease their efficacy. And slow down and take pride in providing a good immunization of your herd.

Finally, keep good records that detail the product given, the dosage administered, the date administered, the withdrawal time if any, and the manufacture, lot and/or serial number of the product administered. These records will help you better market your calf crop in the future.