Vaccines: January is the traditional month to give a number of vaccines, such as scour and IBR vaccine. The scour vaccine protects calves against rota virus scour and should be given three to 12 weeks before the animal is due to calve, meaning early January is the optimum time for most spring-calving herds. Remember that the vaccine is only fully effective when adequate colostrum is given to the calf. The vaccine label states that colostrum from the first six to eight milkings should be pooled, stored and fed to calves at a rate of 2.5-3.5l per day for the first two to three weeks of age.

These finer details can often catch farmers out when they move to milk replacer early in the calf’s life. However, it is probably fair to say that once sufficient colostrum has been given in the first few hours and days of the calf’s life, it should receive the majority of the antibodies. Because it is quite an expensive vaccine at around €10/hd, some farmers choose to vaccinate only a portion of the cows, where colostrum is being pooled. This will reduce the amount of antibodies in the colostrum, which may not be enough to protect calves in the event of an outbreak, but it’s a risk some farmers are willing to take. It’s also worth keeping in mind that pooling colostrum is contrary to best policy for controlling Johne’s disease.