The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

Vaccination – the act of giving a vaccine – is an essential step to raise healthy calves. But truly defending calves against disease requires immunization – a protective immune response that follows vaccination.

Even the best calf vaccination program can’t overcome deficiencies in colostrum management, nutrition, or the environment. Follow this checklist to optimize immune response:

  • Maintain cow health before calving. Approximately two-thirds of calf growth occurs in the last trimester. Monitor cow body condition and ensure adequate bunk space to support cow health and fetal development.

  • Calve into a clean environment. Dedicate a specific maternity area for calving. Reduce pathogen transfer by removing the calf from the dam before it stands. Process the calf in a clean, dry area away from the cow.

  • Feed high quality colostrum within one to two hours of birth. The first feeding should be 10% to 12% of birth weight, with a second feeding 12 hours later at 5% of birth weight.

  • Provide adequate nutrition for growth. Strive for a one-pound average daily gain in the first week of life.1 As calves begin starter feed intake, don’t forget the importance of water intake to optimize growth and immunity.

  • Maintain comfort and cleanliness. Calf pens should be clean, dry, well-bedded and properly ventilated to prevent pathogen exposure.

  • Administer an intranasal vaccine. Intranasal vaccination is less stressful than an injection and reduces the chance of maternal antibodies preventing immune response.