When it comes to scour prevention, what we’ve been doing for years — vaccinating cows prior to calving — has not been very successful: rates of neonatal calf scours have shown little improvement. Scours remains a significant contributor to the 3.6% of beef calves that die before weaning.
Failure to follow label requirements — known as protocol drift — is a primary reason vaccinations generally fall short of being as effective in the real world as they are in the lab. Vaccine effectiveness depends on following those instructions precisely, but on the farm that’s difficult for many reasons.
Administration can be one challenge: heifers/cows may miss a vaccination or booster because they were too heavy in calf to comfortably go through the chute, weather challenges meant chute works would be too stressful, or life got “real” and something had to give.
Timing often presents an even bigger hurdle. Pre-calving scour vaccines are only effective if given during the time frame required on the label. That time frame assumes calving date can be precisely predicted. That’s nearly impossible when cows are running with a bull. Artificial insemination makes calving date a bit easier to predict but even so, producers report that 20% of cows and heifers calve earlier or later than predicted, putting them outside the required administration window prior to calving. In addition, often times what’s convenient trumps label requirements. Administering dam-level scour vaccines outside the label recommended time is just simply a waste of resources. Close to two-thirds of producers surveyed reported giving the annual booster to lactating cows outside that prescribed time.
In all, that survey showed that nearly 80% of operations were noncompliant with label requirements related to effectiveness of the product. The result? Calves are unprotected against scours-causing pathogens.
But producers now can leave behind all the variability of scours vaccination programs by using First Defense® products instead. These products give newborn calves immediate immunity through the direct delivery of antibodies, making protocol drift a thing of the past. The FIRST DEFENSE product line (Dual-Force® and Tri-Shield®) are a unique technology that provides newborns with E. coli, coronavirus and rotavirus antibodies in a single dose administered orally at birth — immediate protection, guaranteed.
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