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Calf Health

Vaccination Tips

Vaccination technique

  • Vaccinations are given by subcutaneous injection in the area outlined by the triangle.
  • The vaccine is injected under the skin and not into the muscle
  • Lift a fold of loose skin with your free hand, inject at the base of the ‘tented’ skin ensuring that the needle does not pass straight through the fold of skin
  • Care is required to ensure that the hand holding the skin fold is placed to avoid accidental self-injection
  • It is possible to vaccinate animals without raising the skin fold to reduce the risk of self-injection
  • Care with needle placement is required to ensure vaccine goes under the skin
  • Place the needle at about 45° angle to the skin
  • Have the bevelled edge (flat open edge) of the needle parallel to the skin. Ensure the vaccine is placed under the skin, not into the top layer of muscle

calf health protocol

calf health protocol

calf health protocol

Vaccination tips

Avoid vaccinating cattle when wet or in dusty yards

Vaccinate high on the neck, near the base of the ear if possible to avoid carcass damage

Avoid vaccinating through soiled skin. If required, clean skin with a paper towel

Replace needles regularly so they remain clean and sharp

The importance of vaccinating at the recommended time

Vaccines stimulate the production of protective antibodies that fight against disease. In most cases, single doses of vaccine do not confer immediate protection against disease. The exception is where vaccines are formulated as one dose products, such as Longrange® or Vibrovax® in heifers older than 18 months.

Primary dose: Calves at 6 weeks

This is when the primary dose of vaccine is given.It is important to vaccinate young calves to stimulate their own antibody production. Antibodies may increase for a few weeks. Depending on the disease you are vaccinating against, there may or may not be some level of protection following the first dose of vaccine. This is known as the primary response.

Booster dose: Calves at 12 weeks

The booster dose of vaccine (following the primary dose at 6 weeks) is given so that the body ‘remembers’ how to make antibodies. It also ensures that antibodies are produced at a much faster rate . This is known as the ‘secondary response’ and results in longer lasting protection against disease.

Annual boosters

This dose is given 12 months after the last to boost protective immunity for the next 12 month period. It is important not to miss this dose in steers and heifers as they may fall out of your ‘normal’ vaccination timing. Annual vaccinations in heifers, cows and bulls are recommended at specific times depending on the animal and the vaccine.


This annual booster is to protect the unborn calf and provide for the transfer of antibodies from the cow to the calf through colostrum, protecting the calf for a period after birth. This ‘passive’ immunity protects the calf until vaccination can be undertaken. Colostral antibody wears off in the first 2-3 months of life. Read the label to ensure that the vaccine you are using will work if given to calves with colostral immunity and to determine the youngest age that you can vaccinate cattle.


The timing of this annual booster is to protect the cow from infection during pregnancy. This is particularly important for Pestigard® to minimise the production of persistently infected animals. For bulls, this ensures immunity to reproductive disease is at optimal levels prior to exposure to females and minimises transmission of reproductive disease during joining.

NOTE: Some vaccines are single dose. They can trickle antigen into the body resulting in the equivalent of a primary and secondary response from one dose of vaccine (for example Longrange® and Vibrovax®). They do however require annual or biennial boosters (5mL of Vibrovax® for heifers >18 months).

How vaccines affect antibody level

How vaccines affect antibody level

This graph is a schematic representation to demonstrate the principles of vaccination. Actual levels of antibody following vaccination will vary from vaccine to vaccine and animal to animal.

REF: Stephen Page (2003). The role of enteric antibiotics in livestock production. A review of published literature prepared for Avcare. Canberra ACT: Avcare Advanced Veterinary Therapeutics.

Vaccinations for your calves

Age/time From 1 month of age 4-6 weeks after 1st dose 3-6 weeks of age
Ultravac®5 in 1
Ultravac®7 in 1

*When calves are given their 1st dose at less than 3 months of age, a single booster dose should be given 6 months after the 2 initial doses. The two basic doses should provide effective immunity against enterotoxaemia for 3 months. Booster doses are therefore necessary to maintain immunity against enterotoxaemia in cattle and should be given at appropriate intervals according to local and seasonal conditions.

Further Reading

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