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Master of Agribusiness

The Effect of Intermittent Vaccination of the Beef Cow Herd on Herd Production

Todd Marsh, Plentwood, MT., defended his thesis, “The Effect of Intermittent Vaccination of the Beef Cow Herd on Herd Production,” Thursday, March 20, 2008. Marsh, a veterinarian, operates a ranch and feedlots in northeast Montana and Belle Fourche, SD. He graduated from Kansas State University in May with a Master’s in Agribusiness (MAB).

Annual vaccination of the beef cow herd is a common management tool for most beef herd operations.  However, no studies have established what the minimal vaccination frequency is needed to attain an acceptable herd production output with minimal financial inputs.  The objective of Marsh’s thesis was to evaluate the effect of varying the interval of vaccination on cow reproductive productivity, calf productivity at weaning and herd profitability. 

“The study consisted of approximately 1,000 head of commercial cows, bred heifers and bulls divided between two locations in south central South Dakota. At each location, cows randomly assigned into four treatment groups: 1) Group V0, non-vaccinated or control, 2) Group V1, vaccinated in 2000, 3) Group V2 vaccinated in 1999 and 2000 and 4) Group V3 vaccinated in 1998, 1999 and 2000,” Marsh said.

Permanent and yearly production records were collected for each individual cow and calf during the study.  The performance measure data collected included individual cow and calf identification, cow age, cow pregnancy rate, calf birth date, calf birth weight, calf death loss, calf weaning weight and calf weaning date. At the conclusion of the four-year study, the varying of vaccination intervals did not effect the production and profitability of the herd. “We found the study results supported our hypothesis that production output and profitability of the cow herd was not decreased by vaccinating the cow herd at intervals greater than one year,” Marsh said. “Any differences in the production or profitability can be explained by normal biological variations within the herd and not are attributed to the extended vaccination schedules.”

Marsh’s results may become increasingly important for producers as they look for ways to improve financial positions.

Ted Schroeder, Agricultural Economics professor and Marsh’s thesis advisor, said, “The findings of Dr. Marsh’s study are especially important as cow-calf producers face thin margins over the next few years. Producers need to identify places to manage costs without resulting in significant animal productive performance loss.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/658.