Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
A serious condition, pinkeye in cattle (infectious bovine kerato-conjunctivitis) is a bacterial infection of the eye that causes inflammation and can lead to temporary or permanent blindness.
Dr. Lowell Midla, DVM, with Merck Animal Health, explains that there are two types of vaccines available to help prevent this disease: commercial vaccines and those prepared from cultures of microorganisms taken from an infected individual. These vaccines are called autogenous vaccines.
Commercial vaccines are readily available, while autogenous vaccines must be developed. To develop an autogenous vaccine, your veterinarian will take samples from the infected cattle. The samples of the bacteria will be sent to a laboratory and a vaccine will be made specifically for the disease affecting the animals in your herd.
It is not possible to get samples for the autogenous vaccine until the disease has already occurred. Because it requires a little time to make the autogenous vaccine, it might not be available until late in the next pinkeye season, which is early in the spring and through the summer.
The concern is that the infecting organism could be different in the next season versus the current year in which the samples were taken. However, many times the autogenous vaccines will still be effective. For this reason, a commercial vaccine should be used initially if your herd develops a problem with pinkeye.
Autogenous vaccines are not needed to prove they are effective while commercial vaccines must show they are effective. The effectiveness of autogenous vaccines depends on the history of your herd.
Most ranchers start off with commercial vaccines and only consider autogenous vaccines if the commercial ones are ineffective. Since commercial vaccines are so available, you can vaccinate your herd prior to pinkeye season and hopefully prevent the disease.