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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Healthy Animals Newsletter

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Issue 16, December 2003
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Experimental Vaccine Stops Shipping Fever in Feeder Calves

An ARS-developed experimental vaccine should be very effective in cattle against shipping fever, the leading cause of illness and death in U.S. feedlots.

The experimental vaccine was created by deleting a large piece of a specific gene from bacteria that cause shipping fever. When this gene segment is removed, the bacterium no longer causes pneumonia in cattle, but does elicit immunity. Veterinarian Robert E. Briggs and microbiologist Fred M. Tatum at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, created the live vaccine without foreign DNA.

The Biotechnology Research and Development Consortium of Peoria, Ill., funded part of the research and applied for several patents on the vaccine. The vaccine has not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for use in the United States.

Bovine respiratory disease costs cattle producers more than $1 billion annually in losses. It's also called "shipping fever" because calves develop it about one week after being shipped to feedlots where they finish growing. Shipping fever results from an interaction of stress, the animal's immune system, and infectious pathogens. Bacteria invade the animal's lower respiratory system, causing pneumonia. The respiratory disease reduces the animal's weight gains, adversely affects feed efficiency, increases antibiotic costs, and decreases meat and hide quality, in addition to causing cattle deaths.

Dairy calfIn a 1999 study of the top 12 cattle-producing states, the USDA estimated that 97.6 percent of feedlots had at least one animal with shipping fever.

The new ARS-developed vaccine could be administered by a variety of routes, including standard injections or as a novel oral vaccine.

The oral vaccine protects the animals within three to four days after being added to feed, instead of the seven-to10-day wait required with injectable vaccines. In a field trial with the new experimental vaccine, the mortality rate among vaccinated high-risk calves was 4 percent, compared to 16 percent among unvaccinated ones. The bacterium Mannheimia haemolytica, the leading source of shipping fever, was the culprit in all of the deaths of the unvaccinated animals, but killed none of the vaccinated ones. During the first 28 days on feed, low-risk calves that received the oral vaccine had a 25 percent higher weight gain on average than untreated cattle. Additional field trials have confirmed the weight-gain advantage during the first 35 days of feeding.

A major drug firm has licensed the technology and hopes to market a multivalent injectable vaccine using the genetically-modified strains of Mannheimia (formerly Pasteurella) haemolytica and P. multocida.

For more information, contact:

Robert E. Briggs or Fred M. Tatum, Ames, Iowa

Research Briefs

The first national genetic database for dairy cattle fertility will help breeders select for reproductive performance.
Duane Norman
(301) 504-8660

ARS scientists are studying the amounts of dust produced in various sections of cattle feedlots and measuring the dust's contents for harmful properties.
Daniel N. Miller
(402) 762-4100

An ARS scientist co-developed an improved method for supplying farm-raised catfish with oxygen during a crucial production stage.
Les Torrans
(662) 686-5460

Thanks to an ARS researcher, a compound from a weed may help catfish farmers battle the ram's horn snail.
Kumudini Meepagala
(662) 915-1030

ARS studies show remote sensing matches grazing animals with the right forage more quickly and more easily.
Patrick Starks
(405) 262-5291

Central and Northern Great Plains cattle could soon be enjoying three new wheatgrass cultivars developed by ARS scientists and cooperators.
Ken Vogel
(402) 472-4206

Swine at various locations in the country receive different levels of nutrients from the same feed mixtures, according to results from a collaborative study.
JT Yen
(402) 762-4206

A new test developed by an ARS scientist tells trout breeders and researchers which fish are genetically inclined to develop more muscle and less fat.
Kenneth E. Overturf
(208) 837-9096

ARS researchers are gaining insight into trout genetics so they can breed faster-growing, disease-resistant fish.
Caird E. Rexroad III
(304) 724-8340, ext. 2129

A new technique developed by an ARS scientist helps keep Double-crested cormorants from plundering catfish farm ponds.
Andy Radomski
(870) 673-4483, ext. 290


Janice M. Miller, a veterinarian at the National Animal Disease Center, was one of two scientists this year inducted into the ARS Hall of Fame. Miller was recognized for pioneering research in understanding, diagnosing and controlling bovine leukemia, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and other chronic infectious or zoonotic diseases of ruminant animals.

Louis Gasbarre, a microbiologist with the Immunology and Disease Resistance Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, recently received the 2003 Distinguished Veterinary Parasitologist Award of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the scientific society. According to their Web site, the award "honors contributions to veterinary parasitology that are widely recognized internationally as significant and important to the understanding and control of parasitic diseases of animals."

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About This Newsletter

ARS Animal Health Research Laboratories

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Last Modified: 2/6/2007
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