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Vaccine guilt - should we vaccinate our cattle?

If you've had kids, you've probably already gone through plenty of vaccine guilt, is the vaccine doing more harm than good?  Should you vaccinate or shouldn't you? etc.

Well we don't have kids, but believe me, the livestock vaccine guilt is just as bad (for me anyway).  For cattle there are two main vaccinations, 5-in-1 and 7-in-1 (more here).  The first vaccinates against 5 different Clostridium bacteria that cause a range of diseases in cattle.  The second is the same, but also includes vaccinations for 2 Leptosporidium bacteria, which are harmful to both cattle and humans.  The second one is more than twice the price of the first one.  In organic farming you are allowed to vaccinate against diseases which are common in your area.  Everyone we know uses 7-in-one on all their calves, but is it really necessary?  Its impossible to find out, most of the information comes from the vaccination manufacturers, and you can bet how much I trust what they have to say!  Lately they have even been running a TV ad warning of the dangers of "Lepto" infections in humans, with the guilt-trip about "who would look after your animals if you got sick from Lepto?", obviously too many people are skimping and only getting the cheaper 5-in-1, so they trying to boost sales.  The manufactures recommend 6 monthly booster doses for both vaccines.  This is not only expensive, but I worry whether it will be doing more harm than good for our cattle.

So now we have vaccine guilt.  What if we choose not to vaccinate and the calves get sick?  Not to mention the economic loss, we do actually care about the wellbeing of our animals and would feel terrible if they died as a result of our bad management decisions.  But what if we are compromising their immune system by giving them the vaccine?

From everything I've read about human and animal health over the past couple of years, I believe that we are intrinsically healthy and able to resist disease unless we are stressed.  In the case of cattle, the bacteria that we are supposed to vaccinate against is naturally present in soil and in healthy animals, and will only cause infection in an animal with a compromised immune system (which is a bit different to human vaccines for infectious viruses, which tend to be spread by sick people, rather than present all the time in the environment).  In the case of cattle, this could be due to lack of minerals, extremes of climate, hunger or lack of access to fresh water.  Castration, tagging, weaning and branding are also stressful times for calves.  We have decided to give the male calves 5-in-1 to help them to get through castration, but we don't see the need to vaccinate all the animals every year.  I have contacted some organic farmers in the area and they told me that they don't vaccinate at all.  I would feel better about that if we were able to keep a closer (daily) watch on the cattle, so that will be the aim in the future.

And then to complicate things even further, I find out that it is recommended for farmers to have a vaccine against "Q Fever", so now we need to decide if we will get that for ourselves.....

It makes me wonder how many people are blindly following the recommendations of vaccine manufacturers, and how much money the beef industry is wasting each year!  Do you vaccinate your cattle?  When and why?

This post is linked to farm girl blog fest 4 on Fresh Eggs Daily.


  1. We don't vaccinate our cattle. You are right, cattle get sick because they are stressed and because of mismanagement. They don't NEED a vaccine to stay healthy, they need to be treated well.

    After having two children suffer from vaccine damage and one of them getting cancer shortly there after (I can't prove a connection of course) I will never again vaccinate myself or my children.

  2. I can't talk about cattle, as I have no prior experience, but I've done a bit of research on vaccines in humans. I've stumbled across other farmer commentary on animal health in the past too.

    Basically, vaccinations are there to protect from various infections. The usual spiel is people/animals could die, disease could get a foothold again, etc-etc. But diseases are all around us, all the time. Very few die and when they do, it's generally because they already had an impaired immune system.

    The impaired immune system isn't just about stress though, it's firstly about adequate nutrition. Give a human/animal, their correct diet with plenty of space and fresh air, and the immune system is able to cope with some pretty nasty infections.

    Do some research on what farmers used to do before vaccinations became available. Chances are, they were moving the cattle around to new pastures a lot, and therefore giving them access to a lot of weeds. Weeds are higher in antioxidants than grass. Their animals would've had to deal with the occasional drought, and performed castrations without anaesthetic too.

    I wouldn't say no to vaccinations in your cattle, if you felt the situation warranted it. But as a long term strategy, it tends to keep animals and farmers dependent on medical interventions. It's not profitable in the long run, if management systems are dependent on external inputs, in order to operate.

    I didn't vaccinate my daughter due to our family history of reactions. Didn't feel guilty about it either. Concerned some times, but ultimately I weighed up the damage it would cause to "possibly" protect her (there aren't guarantees) and compared it to nature, which tends to strike a good balance in favour of survival, when you apply proper nutrition and clean air.

    There are no guarantees, either way, which is what I find ironic about the advertising campaigns they often run in regards to human and animal health. A vaccination is not a guarantee of avoiding disease, and comes with a long list of possible side effects.

    My husband had to get a Q Fever shot when he applied for a job in an abbotoir. But then he was exposed to many different animals, coming from all over the place, kept in cramped (often unhygienic) conditions during transport.

    Having single vaccinations for one particular disease, human and animal biology can probably cope with. It's when they cram so many different vaccinations in the one shot, that causes immune systems to turn on the body, and attack it's own cells.

    The 7 in 1 shots will cause stress on the animal (in it's own way) and invite disease in by weakening the immune system. This is what they don't tell us when they're running off the guilt trips of disease. There is a window after vaccinations, before antibodies develop and the immune system is compromised by the very protection measure, designed to prevent disease.

    It's potluck whether your immune system repairs quickly enough, or disease gets in before the antibody numbers rise. That's the reality of vaccinations. You're taking a risk in the procedure, just as much as if you don't vaccinate.

    That's why it's really about weighing up the risks, not whether vaccinations work. Because there's a whole step between medicating and being protected. That's where things can go wrong.

    But I will say this as far as my knowledge with children and chickens are concerned: you can vaccinate, keep them hygienic, provide them with food and shelter, HOWEVER, if they aren't receiving adequate nutrition, then what advantage is gained?

    You can feed an animal and protect it through vaccination, but if you fail at providing adequate nutrition, they will always do poorly. It's not enough just to stave off hunger pains with repetitive fillers. Healthy cell growth and renewal, can only be achieved through proper nutrition.

    Weeds (the right ones) are your friends in this regard.

  3. I think most of us just want what is best for our animals and it is quite difficult to battle through all of the conflicting information available. Vaccines have their place I'm sure but nothing can take the place of good, simple animal husbandry.

  4. Liz we believe our 2 beef cows were vaccinated when young but are not 100%. However since then we have not done anything to one of them and the only thing the other had done was a buffalo fly ear tag put in a year ago. We are planning on killing the one that had the ear tag soon and will possibly not get the other one re done, but are not sure yet. Both are in good health and they have access to 2.5 acres of land divided into 2 paddocks that we rotate them between. I am not informed enough to help here sorry.

  5. When we first got our cows we vaccinated the calves that we were going to keep. At first the 5 way & black-leg and then 7 way & black leg. We just had them vaccinated one time, no follow-up. Then we put fertilizer on the pasture. I have learned cows do much better on natural grasses without fertilizer. Now no shots except bangs for heifer's if we are going to keep them.

    We keep salt and a mineral block out. Winter we put out a syrup (protein) tub, and a worming block. The calves are healthier and grow better. Now we only have 4cows with calves and a bull. Use to have 8 cows, but without the fertilized pasture we don't have as much grass.
    Animals that eat right and kept in clean conditions are lest likly be sick. This has worked for us.
    I'm one of those people that think the less medicine you put in your body the better off you will be, and that goes for my animals too. Good luck with whatever you chose.

  6. Thanks for the support and advice everyone!

  7. I have been wanting to comment on the last few posts, liz ...but every time I start to post , someone walks in and says 'Muuuum...can you....' and I have to get off the computer.
    With regards to vaccinations- we do vaccinate and David has had his Q fever vaccination but I have not had mine yet, and I feel I should too as I help animals give birth etc. I know two people who have had Q fever who suffered very bad liver damage, so for me, I think it is something I must do.
    Our cattle are vaccinated for the things in our area but I also recognise that some bio dynamic farms and organic farms have practises that really work. I have been reading alot of Pat Coleby's work lately and it really reflects on the the fact that good nutrition does affect animal health. At the same time , at the moment our soil is deficient in selenium (we use a selenium pour on as a result)and other minerals so it does make sense to vaccinate until this changes.
    I think to not vaccinate animals you need to think about putting other things in place to take place of that.I also think it is a personal choice and I applaud anyone who stands by what they believe in.

  8. Thanks Kim, that is my thoughts exactly, if we make the conscious decision not to vaccinate if must be because we are confident that our other measures are going to protect the cattle instead. At the moment with us only visiting them once a week, we can't be sure that we are providing them with the best immunity possible, so we will probably vaccinate at least the steers when we castrate them. In the meantime, they are all getting plenty of minerals, and looking all the more healthy as a result.

  9. Vaccines are a hoax and are far more harmful than useful. Use homeopathic methods to treat them and boost their immune system. If your raising your livestock the way nature intended them to live on pasture then there is nothing to fear. Its the same for people too, if you give your body what it needs you will not get sick. Injecting people and animals with dirty vaccines that contain numerus harmful substances heavy metals, cancer viruses, formeldehyde, etc is not the answer. Bottom line never trust anything big pharma or big ag have to say.

  10. Anonymous, if vaccines are a hoax how do you explain the diseases that have already been eradicated or become very rare by the use of vaccines? It could easily be argued Homeopathy is the real hoax.

    I believe vaccines have their place. That said I also wonder about blanket vaccinations of cattle. So far I have not vaccinated any of my herd but I am strongly considering it.


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