Start the Cow Herd Vaccination Program with the Heifers

A good cow herd vaccination program starts with the heifers. Protect heifers before breeding season begins.

Vaccines are used to challenge the immune system of livestock so that they can combat disease pathogens that may be faced in the future. Some of those pathogens can increase abortions, infect calves or reduce dam ability to nurture the calf. Breeding beef heifers should be vaccinated to protect against reproductive diseases before the breeding season begins. A sound vaccination program starts with the replacement heifers.

Ideally young heifer calves are vaccinated three to four weeks prior to weaning and receive booster vaccinations at weaning. Heifers that receive two vaccinations around the time of weaning can be vaccinated again prior to breeding season to help ensure that they are well prepared to face pathogens that will challenge subsequent pregnancy. Additionally, heifers that receive this booster vaccination prior to breeding season are now set to receive annual booster vaccinations in subsequent years.

Heifers that did not receive a double vaccination at weaning can still receive these injections prior to breeding season. It is important that vaccinations be given early enough so that challenged immune system does not interfere with conception. Naive cows and heifers should be vaccinated so that the booster shot is given at least two to three weeks before breeding. Cows and heifers previously vaccinated and possess a strong immune system can be vaccinated seven to 14 days before breeding as part of an estrus synchronization program. 

Producers should work closely with their herd veterinarian in developing a herd health program that specifically indicates the important diseases to vaccinate against. The herd health program should be developed as part of a formal Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. For pre-breeding vaccination, specialists at Michigan State University Extention recommend using modified live vaccine rather than killed vaccine. Modified live vaccine will induce a greater immune response and provide better protection against a subsequent challenge by the pathogen. 

Start breeding age heifers off right by developing the immune system early to improve pregnancy rates and life in the herd.

For more information on vaccinating replacement heifers contact me, Ruminant Extension Educator with Michigan State University at or 906-884-4386.

Did you find this article useful?

You Might Also Be Interested In