Vaccination is better than fighting fires and trying to treat a disease once it has taken hold

Farmers often view vaccines as expensive, but the reality is that unrealistic levels of biosecurity and husbandry are needed to prevent many common sheep diseases, yet vaccination is so much more cost effective and easier to implement.

According to Veterinary Animal Husbandry Adviser, Dr. Kat Baxter-Smith of MSD Animal, managing disease through vaccination is better than “fighting fires” and trying to deal with a problem once it has arisen. installed, with treatment regimens often ending up being much more expensive.

“Vaccines work because they contain a harmless agent that looks like a disease-causing organism. This agent then stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and remember it. As a result, the sheep’s immune system will help protect the animal in the future by more easily recognizing – and dealing with – any future challenges from the pathogenic organisms involved,” explains Dr Baxter-Smith.

However, she stressed that vaccination was not a “silver bullet”. “Any vaccination regimen must still be supported by good nutrition, good management and biosecurity.”

Dr. Baxter-Smith also stressed that it is not only important to give the right vaccines at the right time, but also to administer them with the right technique – and only to healthy sheep.

“Sheep should be clean and dry, and handled as carefully as possible to minimize stress. Remember to read the product data sheet, shake the vial and use a clean automatic vaccinator to minimize contamination.”

She urged producers to make sure they work with their veterinarian to schedule vaccinations as part of their herd health plan. While some vaccines are allowed to be used on the same day as others, many are not – and in these cases a two-week gap is recommended between different shots, she said.

Maintaining good needle hygiene and injection technique are also important.

Ben Strugnell of Farm Post Mortems Limited said that every time an animal is injected with a needle there is a risk that an infection could be introduced or a local tissue reaction could have potentially serious consequences.

“This means you should always make sure your sheep and your needles are clean and dry before administering a vaccine. Your vaccination needles should be sterile, sharp and changed frequently – at least between groups and immediately if they are bent or damaged. It is also important to use the correct needle size for the injection site and the animal. And, be careful not to inject yourself; remember that needle guard systems are available to reduce the risk of needlestick injuries,” he stressed.

He added that injecting with a dirty needle risked forming an abscess there and also risked spreading this infection to other organs.

“This can lead to poor vaccine response, reduced carcass quality and even death in the worst case scenario,” he said.