Time to check your herds vaccination status.
May 2024

With Spring calving approaching fast and most cows now dry, it is a good time to check your herd vaccination status and catch up on these if needed.

There are many vaccinations available, so it is worthwhile talking to your vet about what is best for your herd and farm, depending on your individual risks.

Briefly, the options and rationales are as follows:

Leptospirosis vaccination

Leptospirosis infection, potentially caught from infected cow urine, is a major human health and safety issue, which in some individuals can cause severe flu-like symptoms, and even death. The vaccine does confer some protection to the cows to help prevent various symptoms of infection, including decreased milk yield, blood in the urine, anaemia, and abortion. However, the primary reason to vaccinate your herd is to protect farm workers, and anyone else who may come into contact with your cows (or their urine).   

Scour vaccinations

If you have ever dealt with a major outbreak of calf scours, or if you want to avoid such a traumatic and devastating event, then consider vaccinating your herd with a scour vaccination – these cover for Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E coli (but NOT cryptosporidium). Calves can become infected from carrier cows (no symptoms), other calves, or from an infected environment(incorrectly cleaned calf sheds). Vaccination does not eliminate the diseases on its own, but is a tool to help reduce the risk, in conjunction with strict hygiene, and meticulous colostrum management.

Salmonella vaccination

Salmonella infection can result in a sick cow, often very unwell, with a high temperature and profuse diarrhoea that may include blood, mucus and rotten intestine. Death may occur without early treatment. Salmonella can be caught from the environment, contaminated water or food, or more likely from carrier animals who shed salmonella in their faeces in times of stress.


Bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVD) is a complex disease that can cause usually mild gastro symptoms in young stock and dry cows, but in pregnant cows it can cause reproductive losses, abortions, and the birth of unthrifty calves and persistently infected (PI) calves. Vaccination is part of your BVD control toolkit, which also includes biosecurity measures, BVD bulk tank milk monitoring, and removing PIs from your herd.

Clostridial diseases

This is a group of diseases that includes tetanus, blackleg, malignant oedema and others. Infection is from spores in the environment. Animals are usually found dead, though there may be some signs that indicate a clostridial disease was responsible, otherwise it is difficult to definitively diagnose clostridial disease. A number of “random” sudden deaths on farm may in fact be due to clostridial infection. Calves are routinely vaccinated, but it is good practice to vaccinate the herd too. The vaccine is relatively cheap, so if an average dairy farm were to lose one cow every two or three years to a clostridial disease, the vaccination would be economically worthwhile.

Other injections

While we are on the topic of turning cows into metaphorical pincushions, trace element supplementation should also be considered, and injections are available for copper, selenium and B12, or as Multimin (copper, selenium, zinc, manganese).