Vaccinating at tailing

Should my vaccination programme begin at tailing? 

With docking/tailing time approaching, you should start planning your 5-in-1 programme. The lamb is born with no antibodies1. Passive (borrowed) protection from the ewe’s colostrum usually lasts until between tailing and weaning, depending on how much colostrum the lamb drinks and on the pre-lamb vaccine used.₁-₄
The lambs’ own active immunity against the five common clostridial diseases needs to be developed. Vaccinating at docking/tailing and weaning with Multine®B12 Selenised, Multine B12 or plain Multine provides lambs with excellent protection4. Both a sensitiser and a booster 4-6 weeks later are required.
The importance of vaccination timing
Two common questions asked are: “Why is a booster needed?” and “How long between the two shots?” The following is a simple explanation of why, how and when boosters need to be given. Vaccination delivers an inactivated or killed version of the disease, which stimulates the immune system to react and produce a response that protects the animal from the disease in the future.
The animal makes protective antibodies following vaccination, which circulate in the body, ready to attack and remove any disease causing bacteria (or virus) which they have been vaccinated against.
Most vaccines in New Zealand are “killed” vaccines and require a first dose (sensitiser) and a second dose (booster) to stimulate a protective antibody response. Examples of killed vaccines commonly used are: Campyvax®4, Salvexin®+B, Clostridial vaccines (Multine®, Nilvax®) and Bovilis® BVD.
There are two distinct responses after using a killed vaccine₅. The ‘primary response’ occurs after a short delay and results in a low level of antibody being produced. This antibody lasts a short time and is less effective at fighting the disease than the secondary response mentioned below. The ‘secondary response,’ after the booster or second vaccination, results in a rapid and high increase in antibody levels, which is longer-lasting and are more effective. An annual booster is also required with most killed vaccines to ensure ongoing protection, as these antibody levels wane over time.
A type of white blood cell called ‘memory cells’ are formed after the first exposure to either a vaccine or naturally-occurring disease. These cells have a limited life span and this is the reason the interval between a first (sensitiser) and second (booster) dose is important₅.
If the second vaccination is given too early, the memory cells will not be established and no high secondary peak in antibody levels will occur. If the interval between sensitiser and booster is too long, there will be a reduced number, or no memory cells left to respond. Again, a reduced secondary immune response will occur and the animal may not be adequately protected. Always read and follow the label to get the best results from your investment in any vaccine.
The ideal timing of vaccination and interval between the first (sensitiser) and second (booster) vaccination can differ between vaccines₅. For Multine, 4-6 weeks apart is ideal to ensure the lamb is set up correctly.


The timing of this will vary on farm but vaccination at tailing and then again at weaning is a convenient way to get both doses in and make the most of your 5-in-1 programme.
With the recent addition of Multine B12 Selenised to the range, Multine has a complete range of options for all ages of stock on your sheep farm.
For optimum protection of lambs from Clostridial disease, begin your program from tailing with a booster shot at weaning. 
For further information, contact your Farmlands Technical Field Officer or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.


1. Mason, J.H., Dalling, T., Gordon, W.S., (1930 Transmission of maternal immunity. Journal of Pathological Bacteriology 33, 783-797.
2. Barr, M., Glenny, A.T., Howie, J.W., (1953) Active immunisation of ewes and their lambs. Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology LXV, 155-168.
3. Moffat, JR (2004) Prelamb Ewe Vaccination - Comparing apples with apples. Proc 34th Annual Seminar, Society of Sheep & Beef Cattle Veterinarians NZVA.
4. Moffat, JR (2016) Vaccination against clostridial disease in maternally derived antibody positive lambs; a randomised, non-inferiority field trial in twin lambs. Proceedings WBC.
5. Tizard, I (1982) Textbook: An introduction to Veterinary Immunology.
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