American Dexter Cattle Association
Responsible Herd Health Management
by Robert S. Seddon ADRN

This article is a continuation of the article in the previous link on herd health management. We covered basic types of immunity and how the animal gets them, as well as structuring Bio-Safety levels for your individual operation. In this installment we will cover differences in types of vaccines and how to develop a plan that covers and protects your herd in a responsible way. This can protect your animals most of the time as well as protecting your pocketbook.

There are many different vaccines available for bovines from many different manufacturers, so there are no simple ways to tell you which ones to use. There are two basic types into which most of these falls, and we can look at these now.

There are killed vaccines, that require a second application of the vaccine to become effective at all, and there are modified live vaccines that provide some immunity with the first application, as a semi live organism is present and the cow will start to make antibodies immediately.

Type one, if the vaccine you are using comes in a bottle full of liquid vaccine, it is most likely one of the killed vaccines. These require a “Booster Shot” within a somewhat narrow window of time after the initial vaccination in order to make the antibodies needed to protect the animal. Just one application of these vaccines is almost useless for protection. This type of vaccine also requires a yearly “Booster” shot to keep the protection active for more than a year or so.

Type two is a live or modified live vaccine. These vaccines come in a package with two bottles inside, one with a liquid dilutant and the other with a dry powder in it. The dilutant is put in the bottle with the dry powder to activate it before injection. You must be very careful how this step is carried out, and you must realize that the vaccine is only good for a limited amount of time after it is activated. The amount of time it will be active will be clearly written on the box the vaccine comes in, as well as the instructions for how to activate the product and use it. You MUST FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY to obtain the maximum benefit of this vaccine. These vaccines have a modified live organism in them, and your bovine may have a small reaction to the shot, like an elevated temperature or swelling at the injection site or just being “depressed” for a day or so. This is due to the fact that the animal actually gets the “disease” in a very limited way to produce antibodies against the disease, and this is considered to be normal. This type of vaccine also requires a yearly “Booster Shot” to remain active over time.

Now, we will get into the topic of how to formulate a plan for your individual farm or operation. There is NO one size fits all for this one, as the common diseases change drastically from one geographical location to another. Predominant diseases in the southeast are very different than predominant diseases in the southwest, so your plan needs to be tailored to YOUR area to be effective. This requires at least one visit with a veterinarian from your particular area of the country, to ask him/her what they recommend for a vaccination program there. For an example, Potomac Fever is not a problem in a desert area, but if you have a pond or stream on your farm, it could well be. Then, it is up to YOU to follow through on the plan that you create. Make sure that they are aware of your Bio-Safety level before you have this conversation.

There is NO WAY to guarantee that all diseases will be totally arrested using any herd health plan. Let me give you an example of this. We took in three animals to the farm this year, one we bought and two were there to get bred by our bull. All had health papers and were vaccinated before arrival at our farm, but there are new variants of organisms showing up all the time. The 5 way vaccine that we use protects against most forms of Leptospirosis, but it does not cover Lepto-bovo-harjo. There is now a vaccine that covers Harjo, but it is given separately from the 5 way that we use. Now, we could just assume that one of the three had the Harjo on board when they came to the farm, but we would be wrong to do so, as a deer running across the field and urinating in it could also have been our source for the new problem. Lepto-Harjo is very communicable and spreads easily, so we now have to add the new spirovac to our plan, as well as treating all animals on the farm with a long acting antibiotic to get rid of the problem. What FUN!

Staying on top of the diseases in your area is a primary concern for anyone that owns bovines or any other animal for that matter. Getting a magazine or publication regularly that would cover this type of information is an effective tool, as well as the internet. Cattle Today is a good site to check ( for information and to ask questions, they do have some Dexter stuff there.

Best of luck with your Dexters. If you keep them healthy, they will give you many years of good service and companionship.

Robert Seddon
Olde Towne Farm
Mineral, VA

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American Dexter Cattle Association

1325 W Sunshine #519
Springfield, MO 65807



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