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Microbiologist Fred Tatum and veterinarian Robert Briggs demonstrate techniques for administering vaccines for shipping fever.

New Vaccine Could Cut Shipping Fever in Cattle

By Linda McGraw
July 20, 1999

A new oral vaccine developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists may help U.S. cattle producers cut their losses from a disease that costs more than $1 billion annually. The cost of bovine respiratory disease (BRD), commonly known as shipping fever, is more than all other cattle diseases combined.

The new oral vaccine may be commercially available in about three years, according to ARS veterinarian Robert E. Briggs at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. Briggs and co-developer, ARS microbiologist Fred M. Tatum, conducted a field trial by feeding the newly-developed oral vaccine to calves considered to be high and low risk for developing shipping fever. High-risk calves were shipped from Arkansas to a New Mexico State University feedlot; low risk animals were shipped a shorter distance from a New Mexico ranch to the feedlot.

Deaths among the high-risk calves fed the new vaccine were reduced from 16 to four percent. Pasteurella haemolytica--the main culprit behind shipping fever--killed 16 percent of the nonvaccinates but none of the vaccinated animals. In the group of low- risk calves fed the oral vaccine, the average weight gain increased 25 percent during the first 28 days on feed. The oral dose also protected the animals within four days instead of the usual 10 to 14 days required by current injectable vaccines.

The cost of bovine respiratory disease extends beyond animal deaths. Other losses are sustained in the form of reduced weight gains, lower feed efficiency, antibiotics, trimming costs at the packer, and poor quality meat and hide products. Injectable vaccines often produce lesions in animals at the site of the injection. These lesions could be avoided by use of oral or intranasal vaccination.

The research was funded, in part, by the Biotechnology Research and Development Consortium (BRDC) in Peoria, Illinois. The BRDC has applied for a patent on the oral vaccine.

Scientific contact: Robert E. Briggs and Fred M. Tatum, ARS National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa 50010, phone (515) 663-7639, fax (515) 663-7458, and

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