DonÔÇÖt Forget to Vaccinate your Livestock on Time!

Now that we finally got a bit of late rain across the country, the anticipation is that the livestock grazing is going to last a bit longer through winter and maybe even through spring. Most livestock farmers know that it could have been worse. But, now it’s time to vaccinate the livestock on time, so that we give the animals enough immunity to resist disease outbreaks.
In Namibia, March and April are the months that farmers are prompted to vaccinate their livestock against state controlled/compulsory diseases (Cattle: Anthrax (miltsiekte), Brucellosis) and recommended diseases (Cattle: Botulism (lamsiekte), Blackquater (sponsiekte); Sheep/goats: Bloednier (pulpy kidney), Pasteurella, Enzootic abortion). Although we wrote about vaccination numerous times at the Village Vet pages, we cannot stress enough how important vaccination is to prevent diseases.
In fact, despite regular campaigns for farmers to vaccinate their livestock on time, we are still getting reports of significant number of cases of these diseases. It is especially true for the village farmers in the northern communal areas (NCA). Most of the farmers in the NCA only rely on the Government vaccination campaigns that only cater for Lungsickness, Anthrax and also Foot and Mouth Disease that is vaccinated in the infected zone (Zambesi region and parts of eastern Kavango region). But, most of the Blackquater and Botulism cases are reported in these areas.
 If you ask a farmer if they had vaccinated their animals, they will tell you straight that why should they vaccinate again if Government has already done that. But, the Government main focus is to vaccinate for free the diseases of high economic or trade impact as well as zoonotic diseases that affect people (Anthrax, Rabies). Thus, as farmers we have to meet our Government half way and take the responsibility of vaccinating for the other recommended diseases that affects our livestock production.  
Generally speaking, there is a tendency amongst farmers to take a chance in skipping the vaccination of their animals, especially in the villages. We get those farmers who just wait until a disease outbreak occurs before they attempt to vaccinate. Sometimes they skip a year, if in the previous year they didn’t encounter a disease outbreak, or if their neighbour who didn’t vaccinate got away without his animals getting sick from diseases.
But like they say in Afrikaans “eendag is eendag and elke hond kry sy dag”. Loosely translating in the vaccination content that if you don’t adhere to the vaccination guidelines, one day you will be caught off guard and your animals might be wiped out by diseases. Be careful that the year that you decide not to vaccinate, it will be the year that you will lose animals to diseases that you could have prevented. And then you might shoot yourself in the foot with regret…
For best results it is always important for every vaccination program to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations for dosage (it won’t help to be stingy and give a little dose). Most of the vaccines for animals in the market already have a prescribed dose. If Supavax® or Ultra 7 Shot® that most of our farmers are familiar with says the dosage is 2ml for both cattle and sheep, why would you give 1ml for each animal. Just to safe money? Or what some farmers do is to give 2ml to cattle and 1ml to sheep, as if sheep are small cattle and not entirely different species.
Rest assured that these drugs are tested and tested under different conditions to determine the best way they will work best. Thus, rather not vaccinate the animal at all if the vaccine is not enough doses, because you will waist the vaccine because the animals won’t be protected and might get sick from the disease that you thought you have vaccinated against.
And if Supavax® recommendation is to vaccinate young animals again with Duovax® after 4weeks, we should stick to it mos neh? This is a booster to ensure that animals that are injected for the first time get enough protection against diseases.
We know sometimes the combination of medicine (more than one disease vaccines combined in one bottle) can be costly, but ripping the benefits will outweigh the cost. Some farmers in the villages prefer to vaccinate for anthrax, lamsiekte and sponsiekte separately. All is well doing this, but you should be careful that you will have to inject each animal 3 times at a go, which might cause vaccine failure if you don’t stick to the recommended measures.
Another warning from the vaccine manufacturers is the route of administration of the medicine. Most of the vaccines available in our market are supposed to be injected under the skin. Like we said, the drugs were tested and there must be a reason why we should inject under the skin, isn’t it? If, for instance, you vaccinate Brucellosis vaccine in the vein, the drug will go straight to the heart and the animal might react to it or might be exposed to the bacteria in the vaccine and get sick. But to give it subcutaneous/under the skin in the prescribed way gives the drug time to be slowly taken up in the blood without destroying any organ. Similarly, giving the vaccine in the muscle has also its negative effects. It could have skin reactions such as welts or blood clots.
And remember to always strive to vaccinate healthy animals in good body condition. If you find a sick animals amongst your herd the day of vaccination, rather separate it and treat appropriately. You can inject an antibiotic if necessary. The golden rule in veterinary medicine is to never give vaccine together with an antibiotic. The antibiotic will fight the vaccine and the animal that you thought was protected will succumb to diseases. This is true for people who vaccinate an animal let’s say for Pasteurella when they discover the goat/sheep is sick already with the disease. Remember that vaccination is meant for preventing diseases and not to treat or cure them!
Also don’t forget to properly store the vaccines. You are always warned that vaccines should be kept in a cool place. This doesn’t mean “freeze” it and it doesn’t mean keep the medicine in your car bonnet. If we don’t have access to refrigerator we should put vaccine on icepacks in a cool bag and vaccinate animals as soon as possible.
After vaccination, it is also advisable to treat animals against worms that tend to lead or exacerbate weight loss in animals. This is especially recommended in goats/sheep. After your MultivaxP® or Pasteurella and Bloednier vaccination, don’t forget to de-worm after 3 or 4weeks.
The bottom-line of vaccinating is: “Don’t wait until a disease outbreak occurs before vaccinating your livestock”, because then the chances are high to lose more animals should we fail to vaccinate. Prevention is better than cure and timing is of importance when vaccinating animals.