Importance of Vaccination in Preventive Health Management Program of Cattle

Cattle Vaccination

The term vaccination refers to immunization for the prevention and control of diseases of animals through the use of vaccines for a specific period of life. Immunization is an integral part of cattle health management. There are many endemic diseases of cattle in India that seriously affect the health, production, and performance of dairy animals leading to several economic losses. These diseases can be controlled by using specific vaccines to stimulate antibody response and providing immune protection to the animals for a specific time.

cattle vaccination

Difference between an Immunization and Vaccination:

Although the two words are often used interchangeably and these are defined as

Vaccination: An act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity/antibodies to a specific disease; Immunization: A process by which an animal becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.

 How does the vaccine work?

Most vaccines contain antigen proteins (derived from either virus or bacterium) that prevent disease by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies to fight the pathogen. A vaccine usually contains the pathogen or parts of it in inactivated or killed form; the body recognizes the pathogen and builds a defense against infection. Giving a small dose of antigen via vaccine improves the speed and efficiency of the animal’s next immune response to the same antigen, as the vaccinated animals’ immune system has a “memory” of that antigen.

If an animal encounters the disease itself, there are already antibodies in place to fight the pathogens, and more are produced quickly. If enough antibodies are present to inactivate all the pathogens that invade, the animal won’t get sick, and the invasion stimulates the rapid production of more antibodies for future protection. Most vaccines are given once or twice a year, to keep antibody levels high enough to protect against a specific disease.

Types of commonly used Vaccines in cattle:

Vaccines are offered in two basic forms; killed or modified live vaccines. Each type has both advantages and disadvantages.

Killed vaccines are generally more stable in storage than modified live products and are safer for pregnant cows, but they usually require two doses (an initial vaccination and a booster) in order to stimulate immunity. Killed vaccines are safer, in general than modified live vaccines.

Modified live-virus vaccines generally are administered in single doses (except for IBR, which requires boosters, since this vaccine doesn’t give long-lasting immunity) and develop a faster cell-mediated immune response than killed products do. These vaccines trigger a broad immunity that involves both a humoral and a cell-mediated response.

Recommended Vaccination Schedule/Protocol for Cattle:

Sr.No Name of Disease Primary Vaccination Subsequent dose
1 Foot and Mouth
Disease (FMD)
4 months and  above Booster 1 month after the primary dose and thereafter Six-month interval in endemic areas
2 Haemorrhagic
Septicaemia (HS)
6 months and  above Annually in endemic areas.
3 Black Quarter (BQ) 6 months and  above Annually in endemic areas.
4 Brucellosis 4-8 months of age
(Only female calves)
Once in a lifetime
5 Theileriosis 3 months of age and above Once in a lifetime. Only required for crossbred and exotic cattle.
6 Anthrax 4 months and  above Annually in endemic areas.
7 Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) 3 months and  above 1 month after the first dose  and thereafter Six-month interval
8 Leptospirosis 1 month and above. Two doses 2 ml 4-6 weeks. apart


9 Calf Scour Two doses each 2ml 3-6 wks. apart preferably during a dry period Annually during a dry period
10 Rabies (Post bite therapy only) Immediately after a suspected dog bite. 7,14, 28 and 90 (optional) days after first dose.

Note:  Vaccinate only healthy animals; malnutrition, helminth infestation, administration of immunosuppressive agents like corticosteroids, radiation therapy, etc. will suppress immune response to vaccine; generally no adverse reactions are noticed, occasionally a transient, palpable nodule may occur at the site of injection; in rare cases, hypersensitivity may occur, immediate treatment with antihistaminics is advocated.

Some guidelines for vaccination in cattle

  • Animals should be in good health at the time of vaccination. Do not vaccinate an animal,  which is already in stress (like due to bad weather, scarcity of fodder & water, disease outbreaks, transportation, etc.)
  • The cold chain of the vaccines wherever prescribed should be maintained (may have to be kept at 2-8 0C temperature) till the time of vaccination. The manufacturers’ instruction on the route and dosage should be strictly followed.
  • Strictly follow the vaccination schedule after consultation with veterinary experts.
  • Minimum vaccination coverage of 80% of the population is required for proper control of the disease.
  • It is beneficial to deworm the animals to reduce parasitic load 2-3 weeks prior to vaccination for better immune response.
  • Cattle Vaccination should be carried out at least a month prior to the likely occurrence of the disease.
  • Vaccination of animals in advanced pregnancy may be avoided; even though in most cases nothing untoward may happen.
  • Keep records of vaccination for the name of vaccine manufacturing company, Batch number, expiry date, dose and route of the vaccine.
  • Create a stress-free environment for animals after vaccination

Common reasons for Vaccination Failure:

  • Lack of maintenance of cold chain from the time of manufacture till vaccination.
  • The poor immune response is weak and improperly fed animals.
  • Lack of herd immunity due to only a few animals being vaccinated.
  • Poor quality of vaccine – Quality will deteriorate if the vaccine is repeatedly thawed and cooled.
  • Low efficiency or ineffective vaccine – May occur in case of strain variation such as in FMD.


Read: Controlling or Eradicating an Infectious Disease Through Vaccination


Dr. Vijay Muley

Vetoquinol India Animal Health Private Limited, Mumbai