On dairy calf to beef farms, a clostridial vaccination should be standard practice. The vaccination itself only costs around €2.50/calf in total for a double dose.

While many farmers will give the first dose with calves while they are indoors, often when disbudding or doing other routine tasks with stock, it is important that a second (booster) shot is given four to six weeks later.

This is because it is the second dose that will provide the majority of the immunity and so it really is a worthwhile handling of cattle to administer it.

Think of it as being similar to most of the COVID-19 vaccines – real immunity wasn’t achieved until the second booster vaccination was administered some weeks after the first dose.

Every year, I hear of cattle being lost to clostridial diseases, typically in the back end of the year but sometimes in a spell of poor weather in summer.

There is nothing more frustrating for farmers who have invested time, money and effort into rearing calves and keeping them thriving up to September or October and then to go out one morning to find it dead in the field due to a clostridial disease when it is quite easy to protect against.

Risk periods

The biggest risk periods to stock for clostridial diseases is where stock come into contact with soil. Therefore wet weather and poor grazing conditions are a high risk period, as is a fresh reseed during its first grazing where some soil can be ingested by stock. Also heaps of freshly mounded soil in fields where young stock are grazing should be avoided.

Remember after an initial two-dose programme, stock will require a booster typically at 12-month intervals. However, this can be reduced to six months to cover higher-risk periods if required in some cases.

Missed booster time frame

If you gave stock the first shot of their clostridial vaccination more than six weeks ago and are yet to give the booster, it is recommended to go with another two doses, four to six weeks apart, to ensure a high level of immunity in the first year.

Clostridia are bacteria that live in the soil and on decaying vegetation. Therefore it is inevitable that grazing livestock are going to come into contact with clostridia at some point of the year on most farms.

Clostridial diseases that are most commonly known to farmers include black leg, tetanus, pulpy kidney, redwater, struck, braxy and black disease.