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Guide to common sheep vaccines

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

A guide to the use of common sheep vaccines in the Central West

With an ever-expanding range of vaccines on the market, it has become very difficult to work out which vaccines are necessary and which are cost effective to use on your sheep.

We’ve provided a summary of the most commonly used vaccines and the reasons why you should use them.

Directions on use, storage and handling should be followed according to the individual vaccine instructions.

5 in 1

5 in 1 provides protection against a range of deadly clostridial diseases- tetanus, malignant oedema, enterotoxaemia (pulpy kidney), black disease and blackleg.

It is inexpensive and protects against diseases which are difficult to prevent in any other way, as the bacteria exist in the soil and the gastrointestinal tract of healthy animals.

An initial shot, followed by a booster 4-6 weeks later and then yearly boosters are required to maintain immunity.

In high risk conditions for pulpy kidney (i.e. lush green pastures or grain feeding) 5 in 1 vaccine may need to be administered every 3-6 months to provide protection.

All incoming stock should be vaccinated with 5 in 1 at least two weeks before being introduced to a high risk pasture.

Summary: Use in all sheep. Give a booster in high risk conditions for pulpy kidney.

6 in 1

This vaccine provides protection against the same diseases as 5 in 1, with the addition of protection against cheesy gland (Caseous Lymphadenitis, CLA).

Cheesy gland is a bacterial infection which causes abscess formation, particularly in lymph nodes. It is most commonly spread by blades at shearing, dipping or coughing up bacteria onto shearing cuts.

It is one of the most costly conditions at the abattoir, with affected areas of the carcass being trimmed or the carcass being condemned and it also results in decreased wool production. Cheesy gland is incredibly common, with abattoir surveillance showing that 33.3% of consignments showed evidence of cheesy gland, so this vaccine should be used in all flocks, particularly those that are shorn.

As with 5 in 1, an initial shot, followed by a booster 4-6 weeks later and then yearly boosters are required to maintain immunity.

Boosters may be required every 3-6 months to maintain immunity to pulpy kidney in high risk conditions (lush green pastures or grain feeding). 5 in 1 may be used for these additional boosters as an alternative.

Summary: Use in all sheep - a better alternative to 5 in 1 for routine vaccination. Give a booster in high risk conditions for pulpy kidney.

8 in 1

8 in 1 provides protection against the clostridial diseases; tetanus, malignant oedema, black disease, redwater (bacillary haemoglobinuria), pulpy kidney (enterotoxaemia), lamb dysentery and haemorrhagic enterotoxaemia.

It requires two initial doses (and a third if given to very young lambs) and then yearly boosters. This vaccine is registered for protection from pulpy kidney for up to 12 months, without the additional boosters for high risk conditions required for the 5 in 1 and 6 in 1 vaccines.

It does not provide protection against cheesy gland.

Summary: Use for sheep that are high risk for pulpy kidney year-round (lush pastures or grain fed).

Scabby Mouth

Scabby mouth causes painful sores on the skin, particularly of the mouth, nose and udder, which can prevent lambs from feeding.

The scabs contain large amounts of the virus and are shed into the soil where it can persist for years. Once a property is infected, the only effective control method is through a one-off vaccination in lambs each year.

The vaccine contains live virus so should only be used on properties with a known history of scabby mouth; otherwise it can introduce the virus onto the property.

Scabby mouth is also infectious to people, so precautions such as wearing gloves should be taken to prevent exposure to people.

Outbreaks of scabby mouth have caused serious issues in the live export trade so vaccination should be administered prior to live export.

Summary: Use ONLY on properties with a history of scabby mouth or on sheep destined for live export.

Gudair- Ovine Johne’s Disease

Gudair vaccine provides some protection against Ovine Johne’s Disease.

It decreases the clinical signs of the disease (wasting, ill-thrift) and decreases the amount of bacteria shed in the environment. It does not, however, completely prevent infection or eliminate shedding.

On a property with Johne’s disease, or a property in an area with a high prevalence of the disease, it can massively reduce the effects of the disease.

“Approved vaccinates” are lambs vaccinated before 16 weeks of age as the vaccine needs to be administered before there has been significant exposure to the bacteria by grazing in order to be effective.

Vaccinated sheep from a property found outside a Regional Biosecurity Area (RBA) on which no OJD testing has been performed are still not eligible for entry into an RBA, as the vaccine does not completely prevent shedding of the bacteria.

Summary: Use in flocks infected with Ovine Johne’s Disease or on properties in areas with a high prevalence of Ovine Johne’s Disease.

Eryvac- Erysipelas arthritis

Eryvac is used to prevent arthritis caused by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae.

Infection usually occurs at the time of marking and is associated with poor hygiene practices, as the bacteria are found in the soil.

Erysipelas arthritis is one of several causes of arthritis in lambs, so it is advisable to gain a diagnosis before commencing use of the vaccine. Other common causes of arthritis include Chlamydia, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Mycoplasma and E. coli. Outbreaks of arthritis caused by Chlamydia occur reasonably frequently in the Central West.

If arthritis on your property is caused by one of these other organisms, the vaccine will not help. However, if it is caused by Erysipelas and the vaccine is administered to ewes prior to lambing, it can help to reduce the number of lambs affected.

It is also now registered for use in lambs at marking and weaning to provide additional protection.

For this vaccine to be cost-effective in your flock there must be enough lambs affected by arthritis to warrant the cost of the vaccine. So it is worthwhile doing the calculations.

Improving hygiene at marking can often reduce levels of infection to below that at which vaccination is cost effective.

Summary: Use in flocks where erysipelas arthritis has been diagnosed.

Barbervax- Barber’s Pole Worm

Barbervax is a relatively new vaccine available for protection against Barber’s Pole Worm (Haemochus contortus).

It was released in October 2014 in the Northern Tablelands and production is set to be increased over the coming years. It is designed to reduce worm problems on properties where frequent drenching is required and drench resistance is a severe problem.

It is designed to work in conjunction with, rather than replace drenches, as it does not protect against scour worm, and it is not 100% effective, trial work showing that it provides between 75% and 95% protection.

It requires three injections 3-4 weeks apart for 'priming', followed by boosters every 6 weeks while protection is required

Summary: Use on properties with high Barber’s Pole numbers and drench resistance problems, in conjunction with existing drenches.


Anthrax is a notifiable disease in NSW which causes sudden death in animals and can also cause disease in people. The bacterial spores can persist in the soil for several decades.

In NSW, it mostly occurs in the “Anthrax Belt”, an area roughly bordered by Bourke and Moree in the North, and Deniliquin and Albury in the South, including the western portion of the Central West region.

Vaccination is used as a control method when anthrax has occurred on a property and is recommended for at least three years after a case has occurred. Most affected producers choose to continue to vaccinate yearly and neighbours of affected properties are also advised to vaccinate.

Any livestock entering a Travelling Stock Reserve on which there has been a prior history of anthrax are also required to be vaccinated before entry.

To obtain the vaccine, producers must complete and submit an ‘Application and Authority to use Anthrax Vaccine (Living Spore Sterne Strain) in NSW’ form to their nearest DPI Veterinary Officer.

These forms can be found online, along with contact details of the DPI veterinarians. Any questions regarding the supply and use of the vaccine can be directed towards your LLS District Veterinarian.

Summary: Use on properties with a history of anthrax or with neighbouring properties with a history of anthrax. Required for stock entering TSRs on which anthrax has previously occurred.