DCHA Conference Recap

DCHA Conference Recap

The 2021 Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) Annual Conference kicked off April 6th with an optional tour of Shiloh Dairy in Brillion, WI. Producers and industry professionals from across the country were able to come together to learn from each other. This year the conference was also offered virtually and producers from across the globe were able to join in and view the presentation sessions through Zoom.

Break-out sessions included topics such as targeting the immune system to reduce and prevent bovine respiratory disease, vaccination, serum total protein applications, and producer panels discussing employee relations and calf housing.

My biggest take-aways from the conference had to do with challenges we face with the under developed immune system of baby calves. Dr. Amelia Woolums from Mississippi State University gave a great presentation on vaccinations.  Dr. Woolums covered the many reasons why vaccination doesn’t always equal immunization. 

The calves’ immune system is changing rapidly during the first week of life.  Early vaccination may not be effective if the calf received antibodies in colostrum, as these antibodies can neutralize the vaccine. For best results when using vaccines it is important to manage them correctly, follow instructions found on the bottle, and any directions given by your veterinarian. Animals introduced to a heavy disease challenge due to dirty environment, poor ventilation, over-crowding, or constant addition of new animals will often develop disease in spite of a good vaccination. Nutrient deficient animals will also struggle in a disease challenge even if vaccinated.

Vaccines won’t work well if given too close to the time an animal is exposed to infection. It is very important to record and use treatment data to help individual farms determine which vaccines, and at what time to give them to receive the full benefit. The full vaccine response takes 14-28 days to occur. Calves younger than 6 months of age respond best when they receive a priming vaccine first followed by a second booster dose 3-8 weeks later. It takes time for the immune response to be fully activated by the booster, and the booster dose should be given ideally 2-4 weeks before disease challenge is expected. 

Modified live vaccines should be used soon after they are reconstituted. Keep them cool even while you are using them and out of UV light from the sun. If the vaccine is killed before it is given to the animal, it will be ineffective. Good management of vaccines, and of the animal is essential to prevent disease. 

Dr. Jodi McGill from Iowa State University made an-eye opening statement in her presentation about targeting the innate immune system. She stated, “Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is the second leading cause of pre-weaned heifer mortality and the leading cause of weaned heifer mortality.  In the United States alone, BRD is estimated to cost the beef and dairy industry in excess of $900 million dollars. BRD incidence has remained static for the past several decades, despite the widespread availability of therapeutics and vaccines. Metaphylactic use of antibiotics is generally effective against BRD, however, due to concerns regarding antimicrobial resistance, significant research efforts are currently aimed at designing new approaches for BRD prevention.”

Many of the topics covered in this year’s conference focused on improving the innate immune system of the calf, and reducing antibiotic use. Here at MicroBasics we are proud to be involved in an industry that provides alternative treatments to reduce the use of antibiotics and enhances the animal’s own immune system.

The 2021 DCHA conference was a huge success and we thank those on the DCHA board for all their hard work!  If you have interest in joining DCHA visit their website to sign up!


Written by Mariah Gull, M.S.

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