A good dose of colostrum often is not enough to prevent certain diseases, such as scours. Most calves need elevated levels of specific antibodies to maximize immunity against scour-causing pathogens.
Traditionally, farmers have used pre-calving scour vaccines to increase antibody levels in colostrum to protect against common scour-causing pathogens. While the science is sound, studies show that cows don’t always generate an effective immune response from the vaccine, and their colostrum often comes up short.
Vaccine effectiveness depends on many uncontrollable factors, such as weather and stress. But the single most important factor is following label directions. A recent study confirmed that nearly 80 percent of operations were noncompliant with label requirements, leaving calves at risk and farmers wasting money on vaccines.
Instead of vaccinating cows, some farmers use an oral scours calf vaccine at birth. However, research has shown that a calf-level vaccine can be inactivated and rendered ineffective in the presence of colostrum. The vaccine can actually do more harm than good. As maternal antibodies from colostrum bind to the vaccine virus, there are fewer antibodies to achieve successful passive transfer needed to combat naturally occurring pathogens. The lower circulating level of antibodies is detrimental to the calf’s overall immune system.
It’s a common misconception within the industry that a vaccinated calf is an immunized calf. That simply is not the case. Just because a calf has been vaccinated does not mean she has been protected.
There is another option. Preformed antibodies, like those that occur naturally, are available for newborn calves. Given directly to the calf, these Y-shaped antibodies are derived from colostrum and neutralize pathogens without taxing the immune system like a vaccine can. There’s no vaccination stress and the vaccine variability is removed because antibody levels are guaranteed in every dose.
Bottom line: Calves receive an instant dose of immunity from the most common scours pathogens.
Learn more about “Y” the best vaccine for scours may not be a vaccine. This article originally appeared in Progressive Dairy.