News & Advice

Why do we vaccinate against Leptospirosis?

Oct 31, 2017 | Biosecurity, Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare

Leptospirosis is a horribly debilitating disease that is spread through urine from infected animals of various species, including your dairy cows.

Leptospirosis in people is a notifiable disease, meaning any diagnosed cases are reported so case numbers can be tracked. In the five years from 2017 – 2021, there was an average of just under 100 cases in New Zealand each year, according to New Zealand’s Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR).

Vaccination is one part of the puzzle in protecting your cows, yourself, and your staff. But you need to vaccinate early:

Research at Massey University has shown that vaccination needs to happen before calves are exposed to the disease. Once an animal contracts leptospirosis, it will shed the bacteria despite vaccination, which might give you a false sense of security; you will vaccinate the animals and think they are protected, but the vaccine does not remove an already existing infection, and therefore these animals pose a risk to you, your staff, and any unvaccinated animals on farm.

The best time to start vaccination is when your youngest replacement animal is 4 weeks of age, with a booster to follow 4 weeks later. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is to vaccinate your calves twice before Christmas to give them early protection against Leptospirosis. They will need annual booster vaccinations after these two initial shots to keep their immunity up, which usually means that you give your calves a third vaccine in winter to line them up with your heifers and herd.

Make sure you complete a leptospirosis risk assessment with your vet to fill in the other parts of the puzzle. There are other aspects of Lepto control to consider, for example: don’t smoke, eat or drink in your cow shed; keep on top of your rodent control and keep pigs well away from your cow shed. This is a serious health and safety issue for you and your staff. You need to take the necessary precautions to protect your animals and your team.


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