Do calves need an IBR vaccine?

Turning calves out to grass for the first time is seriously rewarding. Rearing healthy calves in the first place takes great effort and hard work. Minimising the impact of diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia can be challenging and this year was no exception with the storms of early spring to the warm daily temperatures and cold nights of April. Weaning dairy calves, dealing with coccidiosis threats, pneumonia and clostridial vaccination; the calf ‘to do’ list can be comprehensive. What about IBR calf vaccination?

3 month old calves can receive a 2 ml shot of Bovilis IBR Marker now followed by a 2 ml shot in 6 months time. They can then be vaccinated every 12 months

IBR – Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis

Infection with IBR virus is widespread in the cattle population in Ireland, with evidence of exposure in over 75% of herds (both beef and dairy).  It is capable of causing disease (both clinical and subclinical) resulting in huge economic losses at farm level through lack of production and treatment costs. The majority of infections are seen in cattle greater than 12 months of age. However all ages are at risk of IBR.

IBR Calf Vaccination
Herd level prevalence of IBR by county in Ireland1

Clinical infections usually occur when animals are infected for the first time. Signs such as discharge from the eyes and nose, loud laboured breathing, high temperatures, resulting depression and reduced appetite may be experienced. Milk yield may be affected, and abortion may also occur. Subclinical infections are those without overt clinical signs and for this reason may go unnoticed for some time in a herd. Subclinical IBR can result in losses of 2.6kg of milk/cow/day.

The financial impact of subclinical IBR can be significant

Those infected for the first time shed high levels of the virus for approximately two weeks. At times of stress (e.g. mixing/housing/breeding/calving) the virus can reactivate, and that animal may shed again. Every time an animal sheds the virus it has the potential to infect more herd mates.

Control of IBR

There are three components to controlling this endemic disease;

  1. Biosecurity
  2. Culling
  3. Vaccination


Biosecurity can be further divided into two parts. Bio exclusion and bio containment.

Bio exclusion (the process of keeping disease out of a herd) is of particular importance in Ireland as many herds purchase cattle (e.g. the stock bull), avail of contract rearing for heifers, attend marts or shows (present Covid-19 times excluded). IBR can cross distances of up to five metres so neighbouring cattle during the grazing season can also be a source of infection or vice versa.

Bio containment (the process of reducing the threat of infection within a herd) relies mainly on herd management – segregating of age groups for example.


Culling of animals which have tested positive for IBR is a quick method to reduce herd prevalence. However, in many herds it is not a practical option as there are simply too many animals which are positive. Remember, once infected an animal becomes a life-long carrier and therefore it would not be economically viable option.

IBR Calf Vaccination
Bovilis IBR Marker Live is the No.1 IBR vaccine on the market in Ireland!


For effective control of IBR, vaccination must:

  • Reduce the number of new infections – Main cause of virus spreading in a herd
  • Reduce severity of clinical signs – Limit cost of disease impact

The time to start vaccination depends on the particular situation of each farm. In the absence of virus circulation among the young calf group, vaccination is started at the age of 3 months and revaccination 6 months later. All subsequent revaccinations within 12 month periods. This will provide protection against IBR virus and minimise the number of animals that become carriers. Herds that have a moderate to high prevalence of IBR, are high-risk and/or have clinical signs are best to remain on a six monthly vaccination programme until IBR is under better control in the herd. For the spring calving herd this will mean calves will receive their first dose of a live IBR vaccine in June/July 2020.

In high prevalence herds or where there is disease in the calves, vaccination will be needed sooner than 3 months. Intranasal IBR vaccination is the recommended route in order to overcome maternally derived antibodies in this scenario. An intramuscular vaccination programme then commences at three-four months of age as stated above. See video below explaining the vaccination protocol for Bovilis IBR Marker Live

Bovilis IBR Marker Live – 12 month vaccination protocol starts by vaccinating the calf from 3 months of age

Bovilis IBR marker live provides protection by reducing clinical signs and virus excretion. It is the only single dose IBR marker vaccine for use either intranasally or intramuscularly. It is a 2ml dose with the fastest onset of immunity (four days after intranasal administration and 14 days after intramuscular administration).

The majority of herds in Ireland are of medium or high seroprevalence. Vaccination with a live IBR marker vaccine combined with biosecurity and monitoring are the most practical and appropriate control methods. Many herds are missing a trick by only vaccinating the cows. This is controlling clinical signs and the impact of IBR on production but not necessarily reducing the spread (to unvaccinated younger cattle) and therefore the number of new infections each year. The aim of whole herd vaccination is to reduce the level of IBR in the herd over time. In answer to the opening question – yes; to IBR vaccination of calves.

Talk to your vet today about IBR calf vaccination from 3 months of age, using Bovilis IBR Marker Live. For more check out our brochure here, our IBR page or Twitter page

1. Bosch et al (1996) An attenuated bovine herpesvirus 1 vaccine induces better protection than two inactivated marker vaccines. Veterinary Microbiology 52, 223-234

Flies on the rise as rain arrives – Protect your animals now

Warm weather and moisture provide the perfect environment for flies to multiply. Butox Pour-On can provide up to 10 weeks protection against flies for your cattle.

Rainfall across the country this spring has been lower than average. In comparison to the period of March 1st to May 20th 2019, the weather stations in Athenry, Mullingar, Oakpark and Moorepark recorded 92mm, 154mm, 127mm and 117mm less rainfall respectively, for the same period in 2020. As a result, there has been low levels of grass growth on farms across the country in recent weeks. The last few days however, has brought much welcomed rain to certain areas and will improve grass growth.

Dairy cows grazing low covers as a result of low rainfall
Dairy cows grazing

The mild weather combined with the recent rainfall provides the perfect environment for nuisance flies to multiply. Flies can cause a state of unease in the parlour leading to occasions of flying clusters. Flies can interfere with the grazing routine of cattle and this may cause a reduction in milk and butterfat production. Their impact does not end there, they are all capable of transmitting viruses, bacteria and certain parasites.

Limousin bull with flies along his upper shoulder in spring 2020
Flies on this Limousin bull in early spring 2020

There are different types of flies in Ireland such as House or Stable flies; Face flies; Head flies: Warble flies (rare) and Blowflies. Face flies are the top offenders for annoyance of cattle at pasture. Face flies and head flies are linked to the transmission of the bacteria (Moraxella bovis) responsible for “pink eye”. In addition, there is strong evidence to suggest head flies are also involved in the spread of “summer mastitis”.


Removing or at least reducing the source of infection is the most useful approach to control stable flies. Areas of manure provide the perfect environment for flies to breed and therefore, build up of manure should be avoided e.g. cow roadways. In addition, fields that border woodlands may expose cattle to higher volumes of flies and are best avoided during peak risk period (June-September) if possible.

It is best practice to start fly control early in the season and although fly numbers may seem low, they will be laying large numbers of eggs.

Control mechanisms for flies include; pour-on and spray preparations, repellent creams and insecticide impregnated ear tags. To ensure correct product usage read the guidelines supplied by the manufacturers and adhere to instructions regarding administration, dose frequency of use and withdrawal periods.

Butox Pour-On pack shot

Butox Pour-On

Butox Pour-On contains deltramethrin and is indicated for the control of flies and lice in cattle. It is advised to pour the dose along the animal’s spine from the base of the head to the tail. The person applying should wear gloves. Butox Pour-On has an 18-day meat and 12-hour milk withdrawal period for cattle. For dairy herds, for example, the time to apply is after evening milking to ensure that the full withdrawal period is respected.

For fly control, a single application provides protection for 6 to 10 weeks (depending on the infestation, fly species and weather). If flies remain an issue thereafter, it is advised to repeat the application.

Butox Pour-On Dose Rate:
Up to 100kg10ml
100 – 300kg20ml
Over 300kg30ml

In conclusion, to avoid animal irritation and the unseen cause of reduced animal performance by starting your fly control programme now.

Time for turnout – time for Tribovax 10

Many batches of calves and weanlings are being let out to grass now; a welcome relief to farmers’ workload.

An important question – have they had their clostridial vaccine?

Clostridial bacteria are everywhere; in soil, within buildings, in the muscle and gut of healthy animals. Additionally, animals are more susceptible during key husbandry practices (which break the skin) such as tagging, de-horning or castration. Clostridia lie dormant in the form of highly resistant spores which can survive for many years in the environment. The warm, damp soils of Ireland predispose to high levels of disease.

Clostridial infection usually results in sudden death. Clostridial disease remains one of the main causes of mortality in cattle. Blackleg is the most frequently diagnosed clostridial disease. June through to November is the greatest risk period in Ireland with a peak from August to October. Cases are most commonly recorded in younger cattle with 90% occurring in animals < 12 months of age. Many carcases presented to the regional veterinary laboratories for postmortem examination had not been vaccinated, were vaccinated incorrectly or vaccinated without the required strain.

Tribovax 10 is a “10 in 1” clostridial vaccine that provides broad protection against ten clostridial bacteria namely C. perfringens type A, B, C & D, C. novyi, C. septicum, C. tetani, C. sordellii, C. haemolyticum and C. chauvoei; the causes of blackleg, tetanus, malignant oedema, black disease, ‘sudden death syndrome’ (caused by C. sordellii), bacterial redwater and enterotoxaemia in cattle.

How to use Tribovax 10

  • The primary course involves 2 injections given 4-6 weeks apart

(1 injection is not enough as it is an inactivated vaccine and would provide little or no immunity)

  • Single boosters are then given at 6-12 month intervals depending on the risk profile of the batch of animals
  • It is a 2 ml dose in cattle and 1 ml dose in sheep and should be given under the skin

(recommended in the loose skin on the side of the neck)

  • It can be given to calves from 2 weeks of age
  • Shake well before-hand and use within 8 hours of opening the bottle
  • Change needles regularly while injecting

Start calves now on their two injection primary course and give weanlings their booster injection of Tribovax 10 (provided they received their full primary course within the last 12 months).

2020 Breeding preparation is underway and so too is 2021… How?

Correct management of this year’s spring-born calves will influence the age they reach puberty. Don’t let pneumonia interrupt their growth and potential milk production performance

With the recent dry, sunny weather, farms are bustling with activity. Fields are being closed up for silage, cattle are being turned out to paddocks and the deep green colour is starting to reappear in the grass after a dull, wet start to the year. For the most, dairy farms are 95-100% through calving and now the focus quickly turns to preparing the herd for the breeding season. Those too being prepared for their second breeding season, are the 2018-born replacement heifers.

Of those 2018-born replacements heifers, are any of those not reaching milk production yields you thought they would achieve at the minute? Trying to figure out why? Can you remember if any of these animals were effected by pneumonia or in contact with other calves that got pneumonia during the spring of 2018? This could be one of the reasons why they aren’t hitting their milk production potential.

2019-born replacement heifer at grass prior to the breeding season

How does pneumonia in calves effect their future milk production potential?

In a study, 215 Holstein calves from three different farms were included in a trial. The trial was to determine if the effect of lung consolidation (lung damage) influenced the age of first calving, first lactation milk production and survival to the end of first lactation. Calves were accessed weekly during the first 8 weeks of their lives. An ultrasound scanner was used to score the calves lung health. The results were of great interest. The presence of lung consolidation (lung damage) at least once within the first 8 weeks of life resulted in 525kg decrease in their first lactation milk production1.

Sarah Campbell, vet advisor with MSD Animal Health demonstrating the use of ultrasound to detect lung damage in 6 week old replacement heifers

Refresher on pneumonia

Pneumonia is a multi-factorial disease meaning many factors can influence the onset of the disease. Stress or viral infection can weaken the calf’s immune system. This allows for the bacterial pneumonia agents (which naturally live in the tonsils) to quickly replicate and move to the lungs where they can cause irreversible damage. Examples of stress are, mixing of animals, change in diet (milk weaning), dehorning, change in weather etc. Could anything you plan on doing disturb or cause stress to your calves over the coming weeks?

Calves that got pneumonia are off the replacement list – is that enough?

What you do now can influence calves ability to reach their target weights at key times over the coming two years (weaning, housing, pre and post breeding and pre and post calving). On some farms, calves that got pneumonia this spring are crossed off the replacement list for 2022. However, pneumonia is often not detected in calves as it can be sub-clinical (animal won’t show physical signs). Often times, in contact animals’ immune systems will be challenged by their sick comrades. This can cause them to work at fighting off the pressure of disease instead of using the energy for growth and development. Milk weaning and mixing of calves is right around the corner and this can be a stressful time. It is important to consider how to reduce the impact that stress and also viral infection pressure will have on calves during this time

Some factors that can cause stress on calves

Vaccination solutions to reduce the risk of pneumonia

Vaccination is a simple, effective way to protect your calves against pneumonia causing agents. It will reduce the risk of your calves breaking down with pneumonia which can effect their growth and performance.

Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live is a new intranasal vaccine for cattle. It provides protection against two viruses, RSV and Pi3. Some key facts:

  • Provides the earliest protection that’s available on the market – Given from 7 days of age
  • Provides the fastest protection against RSV (5 days) & PI3 virus (7 days)
  • 2 ml dose given up the nose
  • Provides 3 months protection
Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live – the details

Many Irish farms naturally have Mannheimia haemolytica present. This is a bacterial agent that lives in the tonsils of cattle. Under stressful conditions it can multiply rapidly, move to the lungs and cause pneumonia. Some key facts:

  • Bovipast RSP provides protection against RSV, Pi3 and Mannheimia haemolytica
  • Bovipast RSP provides the broadest protection against Mannheimia haemolytica*
  • Two dose primary course given from 2 weeks of age with a booster dose given 4-6 weeks later
  • 5 ml dose given under the skin
  • A booster dose is given 2 weeks prior to the next risk period
Bovipast RSP – Vaccination protocol

For the best advice speak to your vet. For more information check out links below:

Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live
Bovipast RSP

*Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica A1 and A6
1: Dunn, T.R., et all. (2018), The effect of lung consolidation, as determined by ultrasonography on first-lactation milk production in Holstein dairy calves, J. Dairy Sci., 101: 1-7, 2018.

Milking 170 cows and committed to annual BVD vaccination

“I have been vaccinating against BVD for the past 12 years and will continue to do so until we rid the country of the disease,” said dairy farmer Peter Brophy.
Peter, who with his mother Margaret farms at Wells, Bagenalstown, switched from sucklers to dairying three years ago and plans to milk just under 170 cows this year.
“Twelve years ago, we had a BVD outbreak in the suckler herd. We had two persistently infected (PI) calves born. Ever since then, we vaccinate every year with Bovilis BVD. We haven’t had a PI or any issue with BVD on the farm since”

Bovilis BVD

All replacement heifers are given their primary and booster shots of Bovilis BVD four weeks apart before breeding. He ensures that the booster shot is given at least four weeks before the start of breeding.
All cows are then given their annual booster shot of Bovilis BVD four weeks before the start of the breeding season.
Bovilis BVD is licensed to provide foetal protection. When administered at the correct time; at least four weeks pre-breeding, it will provide protection to the foetus during the risk period.
The switch to dairying started in 2015 with the purchase of weanling dairy heifers. These were put in calf in spring 2016. He milked 108 cows in 2017, rising to 123 in 2018 and 147 last year. He plans to milk 168 this year. The milk is supplied to Glanbia.
He installed a 14-unit parlour and has the framework for an additional six units. Straw-bedded housing was replaced last year with cubicles.

“Twelve years ago, we had a BVD outbreak in the suckler herd. We had two persistently infected (PI) calves born. Ever since then, we vaccinate every year with Bovilis BVD. We haven’t had a PI or any issue with BVD on the farm since”


He is producing 470kg milk solids/cow, at 4.54% fat and 3.7% protein. Stocking rate is 3.75 cows/ha on the milking platform.
A dry farm and good grass management enabled the cows to be out day and night until mid-November last year. They were grazing during the day until 30 November.
All breeding is done by AI with the later calvers bred to Hereford and Angus bulls. Peter operates a 10-week breeding season. Last year, 93% had calved within six weeks. This year, calving started on 24 January. All bull calves and beef cross heifer calves are sold at two to three weeks old.
He employs one full-time worker – Liam Walsh, a local man from a dairy farming background. “I would be lost without him.”

Emphasis on disease prevention

Peter Brophy is a strong believer in the importance of strategic vaccination to control the major disease threats.
He works closely with his veterinary practitioner Lar Keenan of Barrowvale Veterinary Clinic in ensuring that his herd health programme is fit for purpose.
In addition to BVD, annual vaccination protocols are in place for Leptospirosis and Salmonellosis. He also operates a whole herd IBR vaccination programme.
He had a “bit of a pneumonia problem” in calves after going out to grass last year. This has led to the decision to vaccinate calves with Bovilis® Bovipast RSP this year. They will get a primary shot at around two weeks of age followed by a booster shot four weeks later.

Dairy start-up course a massive help

Peter’s father died when he was two years old. His mother Margaret continued to run the farm which at that time consisted of sheep and breeding thoroughbred horses.
After completing secondary school, Peter studied maths and economics in UCD and after graduating went on to study for an MSc in business management in Dublin City University (DCU).
Half way through the post-graduate course, his mother got ill and he was forced to suspend his studies and come back to help run the farm.
He started to build a suckler herd which peaked at 100 cows. The heifer calves were reared to beef and the bulls were sold as weanlings to exporters.
Frustrated with the returns from suckling, he decided that for the farm to have a viable future he needed to develop a dairy enterprise.
He did a Teagasc dairy start-up course which was run by Abigail Ryan. He found this to be “of massive benefit.”
He is a member of the Greenfield Academy discussion group which is coordinated by Abigail Ryan and meets once a month.


The Brophy family home is at Shankill, Paulstown, a couple of miles from the dairy unit, across the Kilkenny/Carlow county boundary. “We are proud Kilkenny people.”

Margaret is still actively in involved in horse breeding on land around the family home. This and another portion of land nearby is also used for silage and grazing replacements.
The Brophy name is well known in horse racing circles. Notable breeding successes include the grade 1 mare Voler La Vedette and, in more recent times, the gelding Good Boy Bobby.

“We lost 3 animals in 10 days due to clostridial disease” Donegal sheep farmer shares his story

Sheep Roadshow

This year, in collaboration with XL vets and XL vets skillnet, we are raising awareness regarding the importance of animal health and well-being to the productivity and performance of sheep farming. Based on the successful Beef Weaning and Housing Roadshow that took place in seven marts across the country in 2018, this Sheep Health “Roadshow” will not take place in marts, but rather will feature on digital platforms such as this website and social media as we visit a number of farms across the country. This plan was put in place well before the current restrictions were implemented in the attempt to slow spread of COVID-19. At this time, we would like to take the opportunity to remind all those reading to ensure to follow all guidelines provided by the HSE in order to protect ourselves, the community and those that are most vulnerable.

Despite the pandemic we face, farming continues. For the purpose of this article and video below, we are sharing information regarding pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial diseases in sheep and measures by which farmers and veterinarians can take to prevent mortality as a result of the aforementioned diseases. Please share the link to this page with those who may benefit from this information. For further information, visit and/or

Beef and sheep farming in Co.Donegal

“Three cattle deaths in the space of 10 days – I now know the importance of vaccination”, this was the message from Donegal beef and sheep farmer John Meehan. John has been farming in Ballyshannon all his life and has built a fine enterprise. Originally beef farming only, John made the decision some 15 years ago to enter sheep production. The flock consists of Suffolk and Texel cross ewes that start lambing on March 1st every year. In conjunction with his vet, Nick Garvey of Old Church Vets Ballyshannon, the preventative approach with regard to animal health is fundamental to the performance of John Meehan’s farm.

Clostridial vaccination on farm

Vaccination against clostridial disease is a necessity on this farm. However, vaccination was only implemented after three beef animals were lost to sudden death as a result of clostridial disease several years ago. “We lost three animals in ten days due to clostridial disease. When the first animal died, we were obviously disappointed but didn’t pass much remarks. When the second animal died, we then got the vet out and subsequently sent the animal to the lab for a post-mortem. By the time the results returned, we had lost another animal.” Following these mortalities, lab results and the advice from Nick, a vaccination programme was put in place to prevent any further mortalities due to clostridial disease.

Pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial diseases

When sheep arrived on farm, “it was an obvious decision that a vaccination programme was put in place for the flock” according to John. John consulted Nick as to the best programme to implement and Nick advised Heptavac-P plus for the prevention of pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial disease in sheep. All sheep that are new on the farm, including new-born lambs, receive two vaccination shots. Any animal that has received this primary course only gets one vaccination booster every 12 months. “Since we have started to vaccinate against pasteurella pneumonia and clostridial disease, we have not suffered any losses due to these diseases.”

Barriers to vaccination

Farmers encounter many barriers when they consider animal health and vaccinating their flock. According to Nick, “Labour, economics, vaccine value and vaccination administration” are all common challenges farmers face when considering vaccination. In response, John was in agreement that these are challenges farmers face quite regularly and not just for vaccination. “If I had known what I know now about the risks of clostridial disease to animals, I would have vaccinated straight away”. John tries to implement labour saving techniques when vaccinating where possible. “I purchased an automatic syringe, we save time when vaccinating as we don’t have to fill the syringe for every vaccination. We also have suitable handling facilities that makes the job easier and, in my opinion, suitable handling facilities are a must when working with sheep in particular”. Currently happy with his animal health protocol, John stressed that there is “unseen value” in the role of the preventative approach in farming. One animal mortality would “vaccinate a lot of sheep!” according to John. It is important to be proactive rather than reactive with animal health, “don’t wait until you have a death, get it fixed before it’s broken” advised John. 

Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme

As part of the Green Acres program, Agriland have constructed a Calf Health and Management series. As part of that series, Suzanne Naughton from MSD Animal Health discussed some of the key challenges when purchasing calves and the role of vaccination throughout the rearing period.

While calf purchase price and the genetics of the calf are foremost in terms of making a profit on calf-to-beef systems, calf health is also a pillar which deserves significant consideration. Focusing on hygiene and vaccination is the best policy to ensuring this happens. Pneumonia and scour are the two major illnesses that compromise calf health and reduce lifetime performance.

Prevention is always better and cheaper than the cure and a health plan should be implemented on-farm. It should be noted that no amount of vaccination can overcome a lack of quality colostrum administered to the calf at birth and the bacterial and viral challenges calves face when the environment they are reared in is not up to scratch.

Check out the full video below for more information. Also, you can find out more about the vaccines mentioned in this video by clicking on them below
Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live
Bovipast RSP
Bovilis IBR Marker Live

Vaccine Management

Remember that correctly administering and storing vaccines is important to improve the success of a vaccination programme.

“Once you get your vaccines, they should be kept in the fridge until you are ready to go with your batch of animals.

“Vaccines should be made up according to the recommendations on the data sheet in the box – all the information on how much to administer and where is on the data sheet provided.

“Start with a clean needle and a clean syringe. If you are using an old dirty needle, you are increasing the likelihood of an abscess or lump developing.”

Animal Health remains a priority on farm – Leptospirosis in cattle

As calving comes to an end, focus turns to breeding management. Selecting the correct genetics is vital to the performance of the herd and in order to fully achieve the genetic potential of the herd, correct decisions with regard management, nutrition and animal health must occur. Leptospirosis is a disease that cattle are exposed to while at pasture and can effect their reproductive performance.

In the pre-recorded video below, Cara Sheridan (Technical Advisor – MSD Animal Health) outlines the effect of Leptospirosis disease on cattle performance and mechanisms by which Leptospirosis can be controlled.

Leptospirosis is one of the most common causes of abortion in cattle in Ireland. It is an endemic disease, meaning that the majority of herds test positive for it.

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease meaning it can cause disease in humans. Leptospirosis can be acquired from contact with urine, afterbirth or aborted foetus of an infected animal. Esentially, all those working with stock are potentially at risk. Clinical signs of the disease in humans are flu-like, with headaches and fever, occasionally progressing to meningitis.

  • There are two serovars of Leptospirosis commonly found in cattle in Ireland;

Leptospira interrogans hardjo and Leptospira borgpetersenii hardjo

Leptospirosis circulates in a herd by direct transmission from infected animals (new infections or carrier animals) or by indirect transmission through urine, birth fluids, milk, contaminated water or other species e.g. sheep. Leptospirosis is very difficult to eradicate as some cows can become carriers. Leptospires can also survive for up to six weeks in wet soil and stagnant water or slow moving streams.Clinical Signs of Leptospirosis

Early signs are usually mild and transient and therefore may go unnoticed.

The most common clinical signs include;

  • Milk drop – A sudden decrease in milk yield
  • Abortions – Usually occur 6-12 weeks after the initial infection.

Abortion rates may be up to 30% in a herd infected for the first time.

  • Infertility – Low pregnancy rates and therefore increased culling due to low fertility
  • Weak calves – Infection in late pregnancy can result in the birth of weak calves that die within a few hours of birth

Diagnosis of Leptospirosis

Based on;

  • Blood sampling and looking for high antibodies level in affected animals (which can prove difficult as often the infection were present 6-12 weeks before clinical signs become apparent e.g. low pregnancy rates picked up at scanning)
  • Culture of urine samples
  • Leptospiral abortion diagnosis is best based on finding bacteria in the foetus

Speak to your vet about investigating Leptospirosis in your herd.

Control of Leptospirosis

  • Isolation of the sick cow and aborting cow
  • Biosecurity  – Avoid the introduction of infected animals
  • Quarantine until test negative
  • Double fencing at perimeters
  • Vaccination – The only practical way of controlling Leptospirosis

Timing of Vaccination

It is essential to vaccinate heifers before their first pregnancy. The primary vaccination course consists of 2 injections 4-6 weeks apart and thereafter an annual booster before turnout and at least 2 weeks before breeding.  It is a 2ml dose, given under the skin to all cattle >1 month of age. The correct use and timing of vaccination are vital to their success, always read the manufacturers recommendations.

Why vaccinate with Bovilis Leptavoid-H?

  • Bovilis Leptavoid-H is the only vaccine licensed to protect against both strains of Leptospira hardjo
  • Bovilis Leptavoid-H is the only vaccine that is licensed to improve conception rates where Leptospirosis has been diagnosed as a cause of infertility
  • Bovilis Leptavoid-H can be used on the same day as Bovilis BVD (to cattle >8 months of age)

Vaccinating Against Pneumonia a Must for Co. Tyrone Farmer

Co. Tyrone dairy and beef farmer Norman Watt has found a marked improvement in animal health and performance since he started vaccinating against pneumonia three years ago.

Vaccinating against pneumonia
Dairy farmer, Norman Watt in a pen amongst his calves

Norman farms with his brother Dennis at a 400 acre farm located between Dungannon and Cookstown, milking 270 dairy cattle twice daily and also finishing 120 young stock to beef. The pair made the decision to include Bovipast® RSP as part of their vaccination regime following problems with pneumonia in the past, particularly in their older stock.

“We lost a few animals a few years ago to pneumonia and had to treat others with antibiotics,” explained Norman. “This was both stressful and costly, so after discussing the issue with our vet, we decided to start a Bovipast vaccination programme in order to reduce the risk of future outbreaks. We’ve had no issues since and I would say that we really couldn’t do without it now.”

The Watts operate a closed herd, minimising the risk of disease being introduced by bought-in animals, and generally calve year-round. Calves are reared in individual pens until they are two to three weeks of age, with good ventilation in place.

Advice from the vet on vaccinating against pneumonia

They have worked closely with Parklands Veterinary Practice in Cookstown for many years, adopting a preventative, progressive approach to animal health. Calves receive a primary shot of Bovipast RSP to protect against pasteurella pneumonia (caused by M. haemolytica) and the two main pneumonia-causing viruses, RSV and PI3.  Bovilis IBR Marker Live, the vaccine that protects against IBR, is given at the same time as the primary shot of Bovipast RSP at 3 weeks of age.  A booster shot of Bovipast RSP is given four weeks later.   All cows are vaccinated against IBR twice a year, and they also include Bovivac® S against Salmonellosis and Leptavoid® H against leptospirosis as part of their vaccination regime.

Thriving Animals

“We’ve had great results with Bovipast since we started using it,” continued Norman. “Dealing with sick animals in the past has been very demoralising and we are keen to do anything we can to avoid it. There is also a clear financial benefit, as the cost of treating disease is much more than the cost of vaccination. It’s much better to take control of the situation rather than leaving it to chance – it’s simply not worth the risk.  In our view, a solid vaccination programme is a must if you want thriving, healthy animals.”

Vaccinating against pneumonia
Thriving Animals: A pen of healthy calves that are all on the same vaccination protocol

Boosting calf immunity through vaccinating against pneumonia

Most recently, the Watts have added the new Bovilis® INtranasal RSP Live vaccine to their vaccination regime, to provide an early boost to new-born calf immunity.

 “We were previously having some issues with calves starting to cough and then having to treat them with antibiotics before we were able to give them the Bovipast shot at three weeks.  Whenever our vet told us about the new intranasal vaccine which reduces clinical signs of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) from one week of age, we were very keen to try it.  The fact that it’s intranasal is a bonus as it is very easy to administer and highly effective.  Helping to avoid illness at this early stage of the calf’s life is really important to us, as we know how much an early encounter with respiratory illness can affect their ability to thrive,” said Norman.

Communication and continuous improvement

Koen Debel of Parklands Veterinary Practice commented: “The Watts are a very progressive team dedicated to making continual improvements across the farm. From nutrition, to vaccination to hygiene – they really are on top of everything.  Excellent communication between the two brothers, combined with using expert advice where appropriate, means they are a very robust team. In terms of vaccinations, they make sure they are well-informed and are fully comfortable with the choices they are making.  Animal health is at the heart of what they are doing and a strong focus on that has impacted positively on productivity, profitability and overall job satisfaction.

Vaccinating against pneumonia
(l-r): Koen Debel, Parkleands Vet, TJ Duffy, MSD Animal Health and Normal Watt, Dungannon Dairy farmer

“They are very strong advocates for a comprehensive vaccination programme, recognising the benefits of a preventative approach. Minimising antibiotic use is important for many reasons and they should only ever be used as a last resort. Some farmers may be reluctant to invest time and money into establishing a vaccination protocol, but in reality the cost of losing one calf can far outweigh the investment in preventative options. A robust vaccination programme enables farmers to reduce treatment costs and gives them peace of mind that they are doing everything possible to maximise animal health and performance.”  

For more information on either vaccine, click below or talk to your vet:

Bovilis INtranasal RSP Live
– Bovipast RSP

“I don’t have time for scouring calves” says Wicklow dairy farmer

Dairy farmer, Darren Healy explains how he combines scour vaccination and strict management practices to reduce the risk of calf scour emerging on his farm this spring

With another spring calving season about to begin, farmers are well into their preparations for the busy season ahead. For many, vaccination and applying key preventative practices will be priority in order to reduce the incidences of disease across their herds.    

Ready for Spring: Eamon, Kalinda, Darren Healy along with local vet Mark Drought from Avondale vet practice

Although calves are susceptible to many diseases from early life, calf scour is the most common illness in calves less than one month old. Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E.coli are some of the most common causes of calf scour which can lead to significant economic losses due to calf mortality, treatment costs, labour and reduced growth rates.

According to Co. Wicklow farmer, Darren Healy, prevention is always better than cure when it comes animal health. Located in Redcross Co. Wicklow, Darren is farming in partnership with his wife, Kalinda, and father, Eamon. The Healy’s are milking a 280 predominately Holstein Friesian herd. The farm is run on a grass based, spring calving system, with his herd calving from the beginning of February to the end of April.   

In order to maximise their milking platform and reduce labour costs, calves are sent to a contract rearer at two weeks of age. They undergo AI breeding and the various vaccination regimes whilst on the contract rearers farm before going back to the Healy’s 18 months later, approximately six weeks prior to the calving season.   

According to Darren, the control of calf scour is based on equally important preventative practices.  Vaccination is not used as a substitute for good quality colostrum, good hygiene practices or good housing management; they all go hand in hand in order to reduce the risk of calf illness and enhance thrive.  

Preventative Practices  

Colostrum Management

Colostrum is the single most important nutrient for the newborn calf as it contains high levels of energy, growth promoters, vitamins and immunoglobulins. Failure to provide enough good quality colostrum to calves immediately after birth will affect the calves long term health and performance.

According to Suzanne Naughton, Veterinary advisor with MSD Animal Health, “Feeding three litres of good quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth, and ideally within the first two hours, is critical in order to obtain the necessary antibodies which will kick start the calves immune system and help protect against disease. The ability to absorb antibodies drops substantially after six hours and is effectively non-existent after 24 hours. Vaccinating pregnant cattle with the MSD Animal Health scour vaccine 12 – 3 weeks prior to calving will boost the levels of Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E.coli antibodies in their colostrum. This will be passed to the new-born calf in the first colostrum feeding”.

Darren states that colostrum feeding is one of the most important factors on his farm. “When calves are born, they are fed colostrum as soon as possible. They are left suck the cow straight after calving and irrespective if the calf has sucked the cow or not, it will also receive three litres of colostrum. 

“Each year we try and up our game in some way. This year we purchased a Brix refractometer which allows us to determine if the colostrum is of a good quality.

“Over the last two years, we have really seen the benefits of managing our colostrum correctly. Weight gain and feed conversion has improved substantially, and we no longer experience incidences of scour,” says Darren.  

Calves receive colostrum up to day three, before transitioning to whole milk which is fed up to the time they leave the farm at 2 weeks of age.

Housing & Hygiene

Good hygiene is central to Darren’s calf rearing programme and is applied to all areas including housing, feeding and bedding. “We are very particular about calf hygiene. We have two calf rearing sheds which allows us to clean, disinfect and air out one shed and temperately hold the calves in the other shed”, says Darren. Calves are bedded twice a day with clean fresh straw and the calf feeders are scrubbed with soapy hot water after each feeding. The feeders are washed with a disinfectant

once a week. Darren has also invested in a number of large disinfectant mats which are located at the entrance of the calf sheds to reduce the risk of contamination from farm boots. Calves are housed in a well-ventilated calf shed where they have access to a dry deep straw bed and fresh clean water. Calf jackets are used on some calves under three weeks of age to prevent cold stress and maintain body heat.


Despite adopting these strict management practices, Darren stresses that calf scour is always going to be a threat if you don’t have a preventative health and management plan in place.

In calf cows that received the MSD Animal Health scour vaccine at least 3 weeks prior to calving

With the help of his vet, Mark Drought from Avondale Veterinary Hospital, a health plan is developed for each of Darren’s group of animals. Based on Mark’s recommendations, Darren uses a number of MSD Animal Health vaccines to reduce the risk of Scour caused by Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E. coli, Salmonella, Leptospirosis, IBR and pneumonia.

 “As per Mark’s health plan, we vaccinate cows 3 weeks prior to calving to protect the newborn calf from the main scour-causing bacteria. This is why we ensure that the calf receives colostrum as soon as possible after birth as the colostrum will contain these antibodies to protect the calf against scour.  

Calves are vaccinated with Bovipast RSP at 2 weeks of age to reduce the risk of pneumonia before they leave to go to the contract rearer. The booster shot is given on the contract rearers farm along with the other vaccines on the animal health plan.”, says Darren.    

Apart from prioritising animal health, Darren maintains that vaccination also makes more financial sense in the long run.

 “Animal health is priority on this farm and we also don’t have the time or labour to be able to treat sick animals. It makes more sense for me to vaccinate for calf scour every year as it means that I can budget and manage the cash flow for the year. I cannot account for the costs associated with a breakout of scour or even worse, losses of calves.”

The investment is clearly paying off for Darren as the work that the vet carries out on farm is 90% advisory compared to just 10% emergency.

“We rarely have any issues with sick calves and I believe this is a result of undertaking the appropriate preventative practices throughout the season”, concludes Darren.       

Hygiene critical to reduce incidence of calf scour

Mark Drought, vet partner with Avondale Veterinary Hospital in Wicklow said that creating a calf health plan with your vet now can save you time and money during the calving season “More and more calves are being born on farms during the Spring which increases the disease pressure on farm. With this expansion, space is sometimes at a premium. Vaccinating pregnant cattle against calf scour will reduce the risk of an outbreak amongst the calves during the calving season”. Vaccination alone won’t make calf scour disappear Mark warns.

Local vet practitioner Mark Drought of Avondale Vets on the farm of Darren Healy at Redcross, Co. Wicklow

“Colostrum feeding and hygiene go hand-in-hand with vaccination. Farmers are aware of the importance of feeding colostrum to the calf as soon as possible and ensuring that the calf has a deep, dry straw bed. However, hygiene isn’t always adhered to especially when storing colostrum and this can sometimes be the cause of scour in calves. Cleaning utensils thoroughly after each feeding will reduce the build-up of scour causing bacteria. If storing colostrum, use clean containers each time.

Farmers in my area that have vaccinated against calf scour have had very good results with it and are continuing to vaccinate against the disease in order to reduce the risk of calf scour emerging.

For more information, check out the scour page in the link below

Calf Scour