Sheep and Goat Flock Vaccinations

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There are many diseases for which sheep and goats can be vaccinated, but there is probably only one vaccine that is universally recommended for all flocks: CD-T. This is a combination vaccine, where “C” and “D” stand for clostridial perfringens types C and D. The “T” represents tetanus caused by clostridial tetani.

Clostridial perfringens
type D is better known as enterotoxemia, pulpy kidney, or overeating disease. It is a common disease of sheep and goats that normally affects lambs and kids over one month of age.

Clostridial perfringens type C is better known as bloody scours or lamb dysentery. This usually affects lambs and kids during their first several weeks of life. Both diseases are usually brought on by changes in the diet. Tetanus (lockjaw) can occur anytime there is an open wound into which the tetanus organism can gain entry; however, lambs and kids are usually at risk when tails are docked, or they are castrated, or disbudded.

Vaccinations are cheap insurance. For the best protection, expectant mothers should be vaccinated with CD-T about one month before they are due to lamb/kid. This will provide passive immunity to the offspring through the colostrum (“first milk” secreted by the doe/ewe). Females that have never been vaccinated for CD-T will require two initial shots with an annual pre-lambing booster thereafter. Some are convinced goats do not respond very well to CD-T vaccines. Some veterinarians recommend re-vaccination every six months.

As lambs/kids approach six weeks old, they should receive their first CD-T vaccination, and a second shot two to four weeks later. If lambs/kids are on pasture for a period of time then returned to confinement or dry lot for concentrate feeding, they should receive a booster for type D. Feeder lambs or goats purchased as 4-H projects or for feeding out should be vaccinated for type D, if they were not previously vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown.

Lambs/kids that do not consume adequate amounts of colostrum or whose dams were not vaccinated should receive their first CD-T vaccination at 1 to 3 weeks of age. Vaccinations given too soon after birth are not very effective due to the interference caused by maternal antibodies. Research conducted at Cornell University showed no benefit to vaccinating lambs for overeating disease (type D) prior to six weeks of age.

Tetanus anti-toxin should be administered at the time of docking, castrating, and disbudding, if the mother was not vaccinated or adequate colostrum was not consumed. An anti-toxin provides immediate, short-term immunity and is usually adequate for getting animals through a period of high risk. In comparison, the tetanus vaccine (toxoid) takes 10 days to 2 weeks to illicit an immune response; but the effects are long lasting. The dosage for the tetanus anti-toxin is 150-250 units for young kids and 400 to 750 units for adult animals.

Ordinarily, the 7 and 8-way clostridial vaccinations are rarely needed, since CD-T are usually the only clostridial diseases that are a problem with sheep and goats in our area.

These vaccinations should be given subcutaneously or under the skin on the neck. Be sanitary, as injection site lesions can occur. If you administer a toxoid and anti-toxin at the same time, a separate needle and injection site should be used for each shot.

There are additional vaccinations (e.g. abortion, CLA, sore mouth, rabies) if these health conditions have been a problem in your flock or if your animals are in an area of high risk. Don’t forget to vaccinate your herd sires and younger replacements when you vaccinate.