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Stackyard News Mar 06

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Protect heifers from bovine leptospirosis

Spring turnout is traditionally the time of year to make sure your herd is fully vaccinated against both strains of bovine leptospirosis, but all too often heifers fail to receive adequate protection warns Andrew Montgomery from Schering-Plough Animal Health.

Vet Andrew Montgomery says it's important that heifers receive their full leptospriosis vaccination course before being turned out.
Vet Andrew Montgomery says it's important that heifers receive their full leptospriosis vaccination course before being turned out

“Turnout often heralds the mixing of cattle for the first time and the disease spreads easily between infected and uninfected animals at this time of year. Heifers can be particularly vulnerable if they have not had their full primary vaccination course, which is two doses of Leptavoid-H four to six weeks apart. Ideally, the vaccine course should be completed at least two weeks before turnout,” he says.

At grass, uninfected cattle are suddenly exposed to the urine of infected animals that may be shedding leptospires. Cows become infected through urine splashing into their eyes, mouth or a cut in their skin. Moist grass is also a relatively favourable environment for leptospires and these organisms generally survive for longer outside the host in mild spring conditions. That’s why the spring is such a peak time for disease transmission.

“Advance planning to make sure heifers are properly protected from leptospirosis is crucial,” Andrew Montgomery stresses. “In addition to any bought in stock, it’s important that youngstock coming onto the system are fully protected. Too often heifers only get their first dose at the same time as the annual herd boosters, but this is often too late from a practical point of view. These young animals then get turned out to grass at the same time as the lactating cows, but the youngsters often go to quite remote parts of the farm, and it’s quite easy to forget to give them their second vaccination. It’s very important for the efficacy of the vaccine and the health of the animals that this doesn’t happen.”

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