Animal health key to breeding program success

Zoetis' involvement in the AWA PTP

Zoetis have contributed to the AWA-PTP program through the provision of vaccines and animal health treatments with the aim of ensuring that preventable diseases have not limited both reproductive performance or growth and productivity in the progeny produced by the program. It has also provided participants with an opportunity to refine their existing animal health programs to ensure they are gaining maximum benefit from interventions.

Management of key reproductive diseases is critical to achieving optimal reproductive performance. Leptospirosis is a potential cause of reproductive loss and Ultravac® 7in1 provides protection against the two key types of leptospirosis affecting cattle – L. hardjo and pomona. Timing of vaccinations against Lepto is key to ensuring that cattle never become infected and get the opportunity to shed Lepto organisms in their urine, presenting a threat to other cattle and also to people handling those cattle. Vaccinating calves at branding and weaning with Ultravac 7in1 provides protection against these two key types of Lepto and in addition, provides protection against key clostridial diseases in young calves including tetanus, blackleg and pulpy kidney which can contribute to calf loss if left uncontrolled. Blackleg caused considerable losses in central Queensland in unvaccinated calves in 2023.

Annual booster doses of Ultravac 7in1 given to cows a month prior to start of calving ensure optimal colostral immunity is transferred to calves, protecting them through until branding, when vaccine generated immunity can be established. This ensures cattle never have an opportunity to shed the bacteria.

Another key disease to manage is pestivirus. Many wagyu cattle are genomically tested and there is now the option to include testing for pestivirus as part of this testing. This allows the identification of persistently infected carrier animals. However, it is important to ensure that these persistently infected calves are not produced in the first instance. Vaccination with Pestigard is key to ensuring breeding heifers and cows do not produce PI calves. Pestivirus can have a range of negative impacts in cattle herds on both reproductive performance and the health and productivity of young, growing cattle through immunosuppression and especially through increased risk of respiratory disease.

Vaccination of replacement heifers with two doses of Pestigard® prior to start of mating begins the program. There is some flexibility with the timing of these initial two doses, which can be started as young as 3 months of age, but it is ideal that the second dose is given 2-4 weeks prior to start of mating. Annual boosters are recommended to maintain protective immunity, with ideal timing being around a month prior to next mating. This is often a challenge as cows will have young calves at foot, so boosters can be given to pregnant cows to avoid this.

Steers can be vaccinated with Pestigard at the same time as heifers to provide protection against pestivirus infection as they are mixed with cattle from other farms as they enter backgrounding and feedlot situations. This reduces their susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease, which is well documented to impact performance through reductions in growth rate and meat quality including marbling.

Management of vibriosis is also essential to achieving optimal reproductive performance. Where bull control is optimal, bull vaccination may be all that is required. However, where bull control is a challenge, vaccination of heifers may also be required to control vibriosis. Control of vibriosis is achieved through a vaccination program with Vibrovax®. Bulls require two 5ml doses at least a month apart, prior to their first mating. Yearling heifers will also require the same vaccination program. Heifers older than 18mo and cows require a single 5ml dose for protective immunity that lasts up to two years.

In addition to clostridial diseases which are covered by Ultravac 7in1, respiratory disease at weaning can impact young, growing cattle. Vaccination of calves with Rhinogard® IBR prior to or at weaning provides protection of calves from Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), a common viral cause of respiratory disease. Combining this with a single dose of Bovishield® MH-One provides protection against Mannheimia haemolytica, the key bacterial cause of bovine respiratory disease.

A range of other production limiting diseases also need to be considered. A botulism vaccination program may also be integrated into the above program in herds where this is a risk. A single dose of Longrange® given at weaning followed by annual boosters to steers, heifers and cows and bulls provides protection against botulism.

Control of worms is also important in ensuring optimal performance of young, growing cattle. The advent of resistance to single active MLs like Ivermectin and Moxidectin mean that best control of internal parasites now requires the use of combination treatments like Dectomax V®, a combination of the actives doramectin and levamisole. Dectomax V is the only injectable combination drench for cattle in Australia. This ensures that young cattle grow to their genetic potential, providing accurate data on growth rate and avoiding negative impacts on reproductive performance by achieving critical mating weights for mating in replacement heifers and ensuring optimal growth and subsequently marbling in growing steers. Young bulls also require effective parasite treatment to ensure optimal growth. Dectomax V can also be integrated into programs to control cattle tick, including use for tick clearance programs as it provides protection against the development of viable egg laying ticks for up to 30 days after treatment.

The participants in the PTP program have had the benefit of being able to review their current herd vaccination programs. This has resulted in fine tuning of programs to ensure that vaccines are given at the optimal time to achieve maximum benefit, while at the same time fitting in with other activities as much as possible.

Laine and Lucy Thomson from Marathon Wagyu share their experience:

“We’ve been actively involved with the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) progeny test program for the past three years, which has been incredibly insightful for enhancing our herd’s genetic and health potential. With Zoetis as the animal health sponsor, Andrew Hallas visited our property and provided us with essential animal health products to ensure the integrity of the program. The direct interaction with Andrew and the resources provided by Zoetis played a pivotal role in aligning our practices with industry standards.

Through our engagement with Andrew Hallas and the progeny test program, we identified opportunities to improve our existing animal health protocols. This realization prompted changes aimed at improving health, production, and welfare outcomes for our cattle. By integrating the industry-endorsed Immune Ready guidelines, we’ve adopted a more proactive approach to cattle health management. These changes have not only enhanced the overall well-being and productivity of our herd but also allowed us to market our stock as Immune Ready. This label signifies our commitment to raising resilient, healthy cattle, ultimately benefiting our business through better health outcomes and increased marketability of our high-quality Wagyu cattle.”

Important Notice and Disclaimer

It is very important that you appreciate when viewing the AWA database that the information contained on the AWA database, including but not limited to pedigree, DNA information, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and Index values, is based on data supplied by members and/or third parties.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information reported through AWA, AWA officers and employees assume no responsibility for its content, use or interpretation. AWA disclaims all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs you may incur as a result of the use by you of the data on this AWA database and the information supplied by ABRI and AGBU being inaccurate or incomplete in any way for any reason.

Regarding EBVs and Index values, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • EBVs are derived using Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN technology developed independently by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), using the information contained within the AWA database.
  • AGBU is a joint venture of NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of New England, which receives funding for this purpose from Meat and Livestock Australia Limited.
  • AWA relies solely on advice provided by AGBU and ABRI in accepting Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN software.
  • EBVs published in Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN are estimates of genetic potential of individual animals and may not reflect the raw animal phenotype.
  • EBVs can only be directly compared to other EBVs calculated in the same monthly Wagyu Group BREEDPLAN analysis.

Regarding pedigree and DNA testing results submitted to the AWA, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • Pedigree and DNA data submitted and supplied to AWA may have errors in it which cannot be detected without further DNA testing.
  • Technology may have advanced since a particular test was undertaken so that previous inaccuracies which were not detectable are now able to be detected by current testing technology.
  • AWA estimates that less than 1% of the pedigree entries, ownership or breeding details in the AWA Herdbook may have errors or which may be misleading. For this reason, users ought to consider if they need to obtain independent testing of the relevant animal (if possible) to ensure that the data is accurate.

Regarding prefectural content, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • Prefectural content is based on the estimation of prefectural origin from Japanese breeding records of 201 foundation sires and 168 foundation dams.  As genotype-based parent verification is not used in Japan, and full Japanese registration certificates are not available for all foundation animals, exact prefectural composition for these sires and dams cannot be validated.
  • The calculation of prefectural content for Australian Herdbook animals relies on the accuracy of pedigree records and DNA samples provided by AWA members.
  • The reporting of prefectural content for animals within the AWA Herdbook relies on the calculation provided by ABRI.

If you consider that you do not understand or appreciate the nature and extent of the data provided on this website or the EBVs of a particular animal, then AWA strongly recommends that you seek independent expert advice.