RESEARCH into whether pre-feedlot vaccination of steers is costing beef producers money because of weight loss in the weeks following the jab has shown there is no statistically significant difference, meaning producers should not be concerned.
With a keen interest and background in feedlot production, Charles Sturt Univesity Bachelor of Veterinary Science student Fauve Buckley, South Australia, said her research was prompted by feedback from a number of producers that had noticed reduced weigh gains in cattle following vaccination.
Currently Australian beef producers are offered premiums for cattle pre-vaccinated with Bovilis MH + IBR, a vaccination that targets the common pathogens known to contribute to Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).
BRD is estimated to cost the feedlot industry more than $60 million a year.
Ms Buckley's honours research involved more than 630 Angus and Angus-cross steers on four southern NSW farms from September to November 2018.
"To be eligible for the trial, herds had to be greater than 120 head, steers had to not have been previously vaccinated with a respiratory disease vaccine, and they had to be candidates for feedlot entry by meeting weight specifications," she said.
During the study, on each farm cattle were weighed and randomly allocated into one of two treatment groups: vaccinated and unvaccinated (control).
The two groups of cattle were run in the same paddock and re-weighed at 14 and 28 days.
"The results from this study show that vaccination with Bovilis MH + IBR does not significantly affect cattle weights," Ms Buckley said.
"(At 14 days) on two farms the vaccinated cattle were on average 2kg lighter than the control cattle, while on the other two farms the vaccinated cattle were heavier. At 28 days, the general consensus was the difference between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated cattle had decreased.
"Cattle producers utilising this vaccine should be assured that any weight loss associated with vaccination is minor and should be covered by the $15 and higher premiums currently offered by Australian feedlots for vaccinated stock," she said.
Ms Buckley said the main finding of the research was consumers could have confidence in this product, knowing that vaccinating their cattle with it would results in no significant weight loss.
"There is no evidence to suggest these vaccines do cause weight loss," she said. "In addition to the results ... there is no other evidence to suggest that vaccination causes weight loss in cattle."
Two doses, no difference
Phase two of Charles Sturt University Bachelor of Veterinary Science student Fauve Buckley's honours research looked at whether cattle vaccinated with two doses of the Bovilis MH + IBR vaccine (as recommended by Coopers) were at an increased risk of weight loss.
Ms Buckley said one farm took part in the second phase, with three treatment groups. "One was no vaccination (control), two was one vaccination at either day 0 or day 28, and three was two vaccinations at day 0 and day 28," she said.
Cattle were again re-weighed at 14 and 28 days.
There was no significant difference in weight between the treatment groups. "The control group gained 103kg (average) ... cattle receiving one vaccination were 4kg lighter than the control group, while cattle receiving two were on average 1kg heavier," she said.
"Again there was no statistically significant difference between the groups."
Ms Buckley's research was supervised by Graham Centre livestock research pathway leader, Professor Bruce Allworth from the Fred Morley Centre.
'"Vaccination remains the most important step in BRD prevention," Prof Allworth said.
The research was approved by the Charles Sturt Animal Ethics Committee. It was carried out independently by Charles Sturt, but did make use of vaccine provided by Coopers Animal Health.
- Fauve Buckley's research findings were presented at the Graham Centre's livestock forum day.