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Animal Health and Vaccines

posted on

April 10, 2023


We make every effort to ensure that our animals are healthy. At Colvin Ranch, we have protocols in place for managing herd and individual animal health. Our practices include:

  • ensuring our livestock have high-quality grass, hay, and alfalfa, and access to essential minerals and water
  • working closely with our veterinarian to ensure our processes are optimized for animal health, and following recommendations for the best course of treatment if an animal does get sick
  • handling our animals using humane and low-stress methods, because happy cows and pigs are healthy, too

As part of our herd health practices, we vaccinate our cattle for respiratory diseases and clostridial diseases like blackleg, an infectious, non-contagious disease that can occur if cattle ingest bacterial spores while grazing.

Pigs are vaccinated for respiratory diseases and ileitus (a bacterial infection) when they are young. After they arrive at the ranch when they are a few months old, they are not vaccinated again. 

Why we vaccinate

In order to provide meat to our local communities, school districts, and food banks, we need to ensure we have healthy animals. 

As Fred likes to say, “we vaccinate to keep healthy cattle healthy.” 

Vaccines are an important tool for preventing unnecessary disease, suffering, additional medication, and death. That’s a clear benefit for the animals, and also a benefit for us as ranchers. If we didn’t vaccinate for common and preventable diseases, we would run the risk of an infectious disease taking out our herd, which would be financially devastating. 

Because vaccines are such an effective tool for preventing disease and maintaining herd health, 99% of veterinarians recommend some type of vaccination protocol, and the vast majority of operations vaccinate their cattle. According to a USDA survey, 75% of all operations vaccinate their cattle, and for those with a herd size over 50 animals, nearly 93% use vaccinations.

Types of vaccines and how they work

Vaccines create an immune response that provides protection from severe disease. The USDA Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service (AHPIS) explains that there are two main types of vaccines: modified-live (attenuated) and killed (inactivated). 

Here’s an overview from AHPIS about how these vaccines work:

“There are often both modified-live and killed vaccines available for viruses. Most vaccines against bacteria are bacterin or bacterin-toxoid products, which are killed vaccines. Modified-live vaccines contain a living organism that has been modified such that it does not cause disease in an animal. Some modified-live vaccines replicate in the animal after administration, and one dose can be sufficient; other modified-live vaccines do not replicate in the animal, and a booster dose is recommended for optimal protection. In killed vaccines, the target organism has been inactivated and is no longer living. All killed vaccines should be given in two doses during initial vaccination.” 

There are no mRNA vaccines being used in cattle today. For more information, see the statement from the Washington Cattlemen's Association addressing false claims about mRNA vaccines in cattle. 

Vaccination protocols

The USDA regulates vaccines for use in livestock, but does not mandate the use of any particular vaccine. Vaccine programs at different operations vary due to the type of animal, the type of operation, and specific local issues. 

Our vaccine program is designed for our grass-fed, grass-finished cattle in consultation with our veterinarian. We follow all USDA guidelines and Beef Quality Assurance protocols for administering vaccines.

Depending on the vaccine, there is a 21-60 day “withdrawal period” during which animals may not be slaughtered for human consumption to ensure that the vaccine has been metabolized and there is no residue in the animal. 

Vaccine facts

Vaccines pass on instructions to make antibodies against viruses, then are broken down and leave the body. The withdrawal times for each vaccine ensure that there is no vaccine present in the meat. For more details, see this fact check from USA Today

In addition, processing and cooking would inactivate any vaccine, as explained in this fact check from the Annenberg Public Policy Center

More information

When you purchase meat from your local rancher, you know exactly where your meat is coming from and how it was raised. If you have other questions about how we raise our animals, please reach out to us at

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