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Articles from 2000 In October

Modified-Live Vs. Killed Vaccines - Which Is Better?

Modified-Live Vs. Killed Vaccines - Which Is Better?

The question is a common one. Modified-live versus killed vaccines - which is best?

The bottom line is that the ultimate determination of a vaccine's merits comes from controlled tests conducted under field conditions similar to those of your production setting. But, these studies are difficult to conduct and have been conducted for only a few vaccines. Evaluating a vaccine's effectiveness is very difficult otherwise because so many management factors can overwhelm a vaccine's effect.

Viral or bacterial vaccines may be killed or live. Live vaccines contain bacteria or a virus that has been modified (MLV). This means they've lost their disease-causing ability (attenuated) or are administered by a route that prevents them from causing clinical disease. Killed vaccines are just what the name says - they've been attenuated though a process resulting in their death.

Advantages to both

There are advantages associated with both MLV and killed vaccines. The advantages of one are usually the disadvantages of the other.

Some of the positive attributes ascribed to MLV vaccines include:

  • A strong, long-lasting immune response that is achieved with fewer doses;
  • Adjuvants (immune stimulators) are not as necessary;
  • Virus vaccines may quickly stimulate non-specific, antiviral protection via interferon production;
  • The quality of the immune response that is stimulated can be different in ways that are currently thought to provide better protection. The details of these differences, however, are too complex to be presented here;
  • Less chance of allergic reactions; and,
  • The bacteria or virus may look and behave more like the disease-causing form of the organism.

Meanwhile, some of the advantages of killed vaccines are:

  • More stable on storage;
  • Unlikely to contain contaminating pathogens; and,
  • Unlikely to cause disease due to residual disease-causing characteristics.

It's A Complex Issue

Often, in our attempts to explain the MLV versus killed issue in simple terms, we not only oversimplify the issue, but we make the discussion more black and white than it really is. Still more confusion can result when that desire for a simple explanation is combined with manufacturers' desires to capture market share.

With any vaccine, the trick is to have the attenuated organisms mimic their disease-causing cousins closely enough that the calf's active immune system will be ready to recognize the disease-causing pathogen. Then, when infection occurs, it either will be interrupted before disease results, or the severity of the resulting disease will be reduced.

Note that vaccines can't prevent infection. The offending pathogen must get inside the body to come under fire from the vaccine-stimulated active immune system.

Infection is prevented by a different part of the immune system called the innate immune system. For example, bacteria that cause pneumonia must first overcome the mucous and cilia lining the upper airways.

Then they must get past defense cells in the lower airways, and finally penetrate the respiratory tract membranes. If the bacteria are unable to accomplish all this, infection is prevented and vaccine-stimulated immunity is a moot issue.

These partitions of the immune system are purely arbitrary. But, they are necessary to explain and discuss this incredibly complex system. Because they're arbitrary, there can be overlap and confusion.

In general, vaccines do not affect the innate immune system. The innate immune system is more impacted by our management and husbandry practices.

This is a complex issue partially because affecting the outcome of infection is not just about vaccines and the calf's immune system. It also involves characteristics of the offending pathogen - where and how the bugs try to hide from the immune system and how they cause disease.

Some pathogens have the ability to hide out inside the animal's cells. A vaccine that does not stimulate the part of the active immune system that is able to recognize infected cells, may not be able to affect such a pathogen and disease will result. An example is the bacteria causing brucellosis.


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Conversely, a vaccine can effectively stimulate the part of the active immune system that recognizes infected cells, but do a poor job of stimulating the production of the proteins (antibodies) that neutralize pathogen-produced toxins in the blood. This situation may not provide good protection against a disease such as tetanus, in which disease is caused by toxins that tetanus-causing bacteria dump into the bloodstream.

We will never be able to say that using a killed or a MLV vaccine is always superior. The answer will depend on the targeted pathogen, as well as the nature of the relationship between the calf, pathogen and vaccine. Specific vaccine recommendations should be made by a veterinarian familiar with your operation, your type of cattle and the disease problems they typically experience.

Clearly, the vaccines we employ today enjoy a high level of safety. And, the progress continues. Today, studies in areas such as injecting animals with key portions of naked DNA from a pathogen or inserting DNA from pathogens into plants are being explored as means to enhance vaccine safety and efficacy.


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BEEF Taste Test

Next up for the dedicated BEEF Taste Test panel is RMH Foods' Quick-N-Easy Beef Pot Roast with Gravy.

This Certified Angus Beef product carries the beef Brand Mark quality seal. It is a fully cooked, heat-and-serve entree. The suggested retail price/24-oz. package is $7.99 or $5.33/lb. It's available in major grocery stores throughout the U.S.

The six-person taste panel gave the product a 7.9 overall ranking (10-point scale). Taste testers lauded the product's flavor and texture but downgraded it for its high sodium level (850 mg./5-oz. serving) and what most considered was too much waste fat.

The product earned its best marks in the sensory categories - a 4.2 (on a 5-point scale) in juiciness, a 4 in visual presentation, a 4 in flavor, a 3.7 in tenderness and a 3.6 for texture.

"Great texture and juiciness, and pretty flavorful. I'd serve this on my dinner table, although it's a little too chewy," writes one tester.

"The product has large amounts of internal fat and waste that should have been trimmed out," writes another tester.

Its lowest marks came in the area of packaging - a 3.3 in package design (on a 5-point scale), a 3.7 for the completeness of its preparation instructions and a 4.3 in the area of nutrition information. It should be noted, however, that RMH Foods was set to debut a new package style in mid September.

"The packaging is attractive but confusing," says one. Others criticized the incompleteness of package information. The suggested cooking time was vague: "Microwave on medium (50% power) 10-15 minutes or until hot." No 800 number was provided for questions, nor was freezing or "freeze by" information provided.

One factor owing to the congested look of the package was that, unlike competitive products, this Quick-N-Easy entree doesn't use a cardboard sleeve. Instead, product information is carried on the plastic cover that is pulled off the tray prior to preparation, which limits available space.

One panelist, however, thought this minimal packaging was a strength in that it was "more environmentally friendly" due to less trash to discard. She also liked that the product did carry on its cover a suggestion for thickening the gravy.

Regarding the convenience aspects, the RMH Foods pot roast garnered a 3.8 in ease of preparation, a 3.4 in preparation time and a 4.3 in serving size.

Other tester thoughts: The product carries only instructions on microwave and oven preparation, so bag boiling is apparently not an option - a negative in most panelists' opinion.

The October taste panel consisted of Ron Eustice and Michelle Torno, RD, of the Minnesota Beef Council (MBC); meat marketing consultant John Story: Conrad Kramme, MBC Dairy Beef Quality Assurance consultant; and BEEF editorial staffers Diana Barto and Joe Roybal.


Z$8,000 In PrizesX - Under 13 years old - $500 savings bond and trophy

- 14-18 years old - $500 savings bond and trophy

- Over 19 years old - $2,000 in Fort Dodge products

- Feedyard team - $5,000 in Fort Dodge products

Welcome! Each fall, sports buffs study, dissect and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their favorite college or professional football teams in order to ascertain their chances for end-of-the-season awards. It's that same concept at work in this year's Beef Quality Challenge, an annual exercise designed by faculty at Texas A&M University to teach beef quality management concepts.

On the following pages of this insert and on the Web site, we've provided you images of five pens of feedyard steers and heifers. The object of the 2000 Beef Quality Challenge is to use the information provided on each pen to decide how they will rank in the categories of:

- Feedyard health status

- Feed efficiency

- Carcass value per cwt.

Through the contest and followup you will learn about preconditioning, backgrounding, health programs for feeder calves, feeder calf value, feedlot performance, quality partnerships and selling cattle on a carcass grid. Through this challenge we hope you will:

- Learn more about factors impacting profitability of cattle as feeder calves, finished steers and heifers, and carcasses.

- Discuss with your friends the challenges about beef quality and value that the beef industry faces.

These five pens of cattle were all fed in Texas Panhandle feedyards. Each pen has unique combinations of preconditioning history, initial weight, breed-type mix, initial feedyard weight, and days on feed in the feedyard.

It is your challenge to predict the final ranking among the pens for the three traits listed above. Enter by either using the enclosed card or electronically at

The actual rankings will be announced in the December issue of BEEF, along with a discussion of issues affecting the pens' profitability. Winners of the more than $8,000 in prizes will be announced in the January 2001 issue of BEEF. Entries must be received by November 15, 2000.

I'd like to thank BEEF, Fort Dodge Animal Health and the Texas Beef Council for their support of this and other beef quality programs.

Scour Vaccine

Scour Vaccine Grand Laboratories Inc. announces USDA licensing of Scour Bos 9, a killed vaccine providing immunity against neonatal calf diarrheas. The vaccine stimulates the production of maternal antibodies in the vaccinated cow's colostrum and milk, which are transferred to the newborn calf when it nurses. Available in 20 ml/10 dose and 100 ml/50 dose bottles.


AgSpan intends to match certified feeder cattle with value-based buyers and pass performance data back to producers.

If buying feeder cattle were similar to placing a "personals" column, the ads would read: "Feedlots and integrated beef systems desperately seeking specification feeder cattle - on my schedule. Must provide me with the history necessary to predict performance and quality."

Cow/calf producers looking to sell calves, on the other hand, would submit this: "Cow/calf producer with high-quality calves desperately seeking greater access to value-based markets, as well as performance data needed for herd improvement."

And, consumers of beef products would file this one: "Beef consumer desperately seeking a beef product that is consistently tasty, tender and convenient. Hope to see you in the meat case."

Beginning the fourth quarter of this year, AgSpan Integrated Production eSystems, Overland Park, KS, wants to be the "matchmaker" that will unite those buyers and sellers with the ultimate goal of improving the quality and consistency of the consumer end-product. It works like this:

- AgSpan plans to match specific quality types of feeder cattle with the production and animal health specification demands of a feedyard or integrated beef system.

- A network of AgSpan-certified local veterinarians will verify that all AgSpan-sourced cattle meet the buyers' timing requirements and their specifications for health and management. These veterinarians also will assist in providing and interpreting the feedback information to their cow/calf clientele.

- AgSpan will handle all logistics of the transaction and will utilize order buyers and/or livestock auction markets as facilitators for the system. One of the AgSpan investors is Jim Schwertner, owner of Capitol Land & Livestock, Schwertner, TX.

- Driving the system will be the sharing of information between buyers and sellers regarding all key performance and management aspects of the cattle. The data will be passed via AgSpan's secure Web site -

The interactive e-commerce Web site will provide cow/calf producers with a database of feeder prices, cattle placements and cattle and carcass performance. In addition, the Web site provides e-tools to assist in evaluating marketing opportunities.

"This system is based on meeting demand versus selling supply," says Rich Shuler, AgSpan president and CEO. "We're trying to help the industry link together to produce a better product and make producers more profitable."

AgSpan is currently working with a number of integrated beef systems. Veterinary certification is expected to begin in October, with cattle transactions set to begin this quarter.

Membership is open to anyone and any size of buyer and seller at $240/year. This enables access to the industry information carried on the secure AgSpan Web site ( Specific cattle information, however, is accessible only by the owners of the cattle.

AgSpan was initially a joint 50-50 venture between Ivy Animal Health and Friona Industries, Friona, TX. Friona president and CEO, James Herring, serves as a director on the AgSpan board. Subsequent investors include Capitol Land & Livestock. Other AgSpan principals include Lynn Godberson, vice president of marketing; Jim Norwood, vice president of integrated beef; and Ken Odde, DVM, vice president of veterinary operations.

For more information visit or call 877/737-6444.

The Team Advantage

By working together, Iowa farmer-feeders and suppliers find they all benefit.

Its 15 members call themselves "The Beef Team." Together, they've pooled cattle, services and expertise to carve out a unique niche feeding lightweight calves, and they give larger commercial lots in the Midwest a run for their money, to boot.

They do it by capitalizing on low-cost rations, implementing aggressive health and nutrition programs, utilizing their unique facility features and making mutually beneficial business decisions. The results: 2.5-3.25 lbs./day weight gains, 38-43›/lb. of gain costs and death losses less than 2%.

The team, all from Iowa, which holds periodic meetings to share information and learn from each other, includes:

- Horizon Beef, Sanborn, IA, which serves as the management company. It's owned by Dean and Maureen Freed, and it supplies cattle for all Beef Team feedlots. The firm also handles record-keeping, billing and related management work.

- The Farmers Co-op Society, Sioux Center, IA, which provides nutritional knowledge, offers financing, contracts for feed by-products on a volume basis and offers Farmland feed products.

- A group of independent farmer-feeders in and near Sioux County who care for and feed the cattle. These farmer-feeders include nine father-son teams and have a combined annual capacity of 65,000 head.

The producer members include Sylvan Byker or Ireton; Wayne and Scott Dekkers of Hawarden; Robert, Kevin and Brian Eisma of Ireton; Larry Feddersen of Anthon; Art and Arlin Franken of Sioux Center; Howard and Glen Bomaars of Maurice; Willard and Pete Haverhals of Sioux Center; Norbert and Marvin Klein of Sanborn; Gywen Hoogendoorn of Sheldon; Rob Van Voorst of Sioux Center; and Duane and Randy Winterfeld of Sioux Center.

Calves From Midwest, Southeast The majority of calves the Beef Team feeds are put-together calves from Midwest and Southeast sale barns. Others arrive from Western ranches.

The first days and weeks in the feedlot heavily influence their overall performance. For this reason, the temperature of all commingled calves is taken upon receipt. Calves with health concerns receive immediate, aggressive treatment.

Explains Dean Freed, president of Horizon Beef: "We want to know each pen of calves within 48 hours of receipt. We want to find calves running a fever because it's easy to break a temperature when it's spiking. A temperature caught on the way down, too, often leads to a chronic non-performer."

That said, though, the team believes 70% of health is nutrition.

"The syringe can be used to help prevent health problems and aid in their elimination," notes Paul Smit, Farmers Co-op Society. "But, for optimal results, the nutrition needs to be right."

In order for calves to fully benefit from the nutrients in feedstuffs and maintain a strong immune system, they must have a fully functioning digestive system, says Larry Cheney, Farmland Industries cattle specialist, Storm Lake. The team relies on antibiotics friendlier to the digestive system. They also nurture rumen microflora with the inclusion of fermentation-fortified yeast culture in all starter rations.

Starter calves receive ample water and a highly palatable 50-51 Mcal/cwt. starter ration for the first 14 days. It consists of corn, ground alfalfa hay, wet corn gluten feed and Farmland Stress-Care liquid with fermentation-fortified yeast culture. Then they may move to an intermediate starter ration for five days before going onto a grower ration or a finishing ration.

They use locally available by-products to cut feed costs. This includes wet corn gluten feed, which helps palatability while the moisture content helps reduce dust. Other by-products include oat and sunflower screenings, corn syrup from ethanol production and steep liquor.

"On lighter calves, we'll grow them for 100 days cheaper on by-products than if we were running them on grass," says farmer-feeder Wayne Dekkers. "It's a lot less hassle for the owner, and they respond well when we start pushing corn."

Within four or five days, most calves are up and eating, says Bernie Punt, Sioux Center confinement manager, Farmers Co-op Society. The team works toward having the calves eating 2-3% of their body weight.

Small Operators Offer Benefits Also contributing to the Beef Team's ability to efficiently feed lightweight and stressed calves are its members' smaller feedlots - 500 to 4,000 head each - and the extra attention they can give these calves.

The Beef Team is not a contractual alliance but a gentleman's agreement, says Freed. Members say the relationship has been beneficial. Among the attributes cited by the farmer-feeders were:

- They keep their lots full more consistently.

- They spend less time on "busy" work. (Horizon Beef handles much of the paper work.)

- Some have grown the size of their facilities and, on occasion, have partnered with clients on cattle. Some have been able to return sons to the farmer-feedlot operation.

- A consistent supply of cattle allows them to add more value to the corn they produce.

The charges to customers vary by the facility - confinement versus sheds, etc. Generally, however, yardage charges run 16›/head/day with a $4/ton markup on feed and a $1/head processing charge.

George W. is my pick

In just a few weeks, registered voters will have the opportunity to participate in one of the most remarkable events in human civilization - free and open elections to select the people who will lead our country.

In the past three issues of BEEF, we've striven to acquaint readers with the issues relevant to the U.S. beef cattle industry and the stances of the folks who want the job of U.S. president. On page 52 of this issue is the last of that three-part series - "The Regulatory Spiral."

Much is at stake in the Nov. 7 election. Voters need to consider what is best not only for their parochial interests but for the U.S. as a whole. I believe George W. Bush offers both this industry and the U.S. the best program of leadership abilities and leadership concepts.

It's a fact of life that economic busts follow economic booms. How could Al Gore's package of more spending, more government control, more regulation, class warfare and less personal accountability weather such a downturn? It's a scheme that isn't fiscally or morally responsible at any time.

Bush, on the other hand, appears he has the tools to build bipartisan cooperation in a Congress left deeply divided by eight years of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Moreover, his stands on controlling taxes and spending, and returning power usurped by the federal government back to the states, is the best program for both the short- and long-term economic and societal interests of this country.

My congratulations go to BEEF contributing editor Wes Ishmael, who recently was named the winner of the coveted Ambassador Award from the Beef Improvement Federation. The annual award is given to a media person in recognition of their contributions in helping to educate cattle producers about new technologies and concepts in cattle breeding.

Anyone reading BEEF is well aware of his stellar job in communicating complex concepts and technologies. You'll find another pair of great examples of his work in this issue - "Manna From Mamas," a page-10 piece on maternal heterosis; and "Mixed Company," page 66, a story on the role of composite and hybrid cattle.

In addition, BEEF editorial staffers collected 10 writing, photo and design awards in recent weeks. BEEF claimed a total of eight awards - two firsts, four seconds and two honorable mentions from the Livestock Publications Council. That same week, BEEF staffers added two more from the American Agricultural Editors Association.

"Pick A Pen For Profit" is the 2000 edition of BEEF magazine's Beef Quality Challenge. You'll find the insert in this issue on page 42a. The contest carries a total of $8,000 in total cash and prizes, but it rewards participants with much more than just the prize figure.

The contest is designed to acquaint readers with factors and concepts that bear on beef quality. By studying the background materials in the six-page insert and carefully considering the concepts and options, each participant should add considerably to his or her understanding of beef quality and their role in guaranteeing quality to beef consumers.

This year, Dan Hale of Texas A&M University has devised a contest utilizing five pens of cattle. The object is to rank the five pens from "best" to "worst" in three categories. These are: feedyard health status, feed efficiency and carcass value per cwt. of carcass weight.

Unlike past versions, this year's contest identifies each pen in terms of its preconditioning history, the breed-type mix, gender, in-weight, days on feed and parasite control. By considering the backgrounds and the visual appraisal of each pen according to the quality factors discussed in the supporting materials, participants will be well on their way to "picking a pen for profit."

The deadline for entries is Nov. 15. The results of the contest will be printed in our December issue, along with a discussion of the factors that owed to each pen's performance. The winners will be announced in our January 2001 issue.

My thanks to Dan Hale and Texas A&M for their fine work in developing this third annual contest. I also thank the Texas Beef Council and the folks at Fort Dodge Animal Health for their continuing work and dedication to top-notch beef quality education programs.

Genetic help for spurring tenderness

While there are many factors affecting the eating pleasure of wholesome beef cuts, none may have as great an impact as tenderness. Unfortunately, few if any genetic selection tools have been available to systematically improve the tenderness of beef, thus improving eating satisfaction to consumers.

Sure, proper aging, live animal age, electrical stimulation and various other environmental stimuli help improve tenderness and the ultimate palatability of beef. But, common sense says the cornerstone for retaining and capturing a larger market share for beef products needs to revolve around identifying the genetics of tenderness, then figuring out how to improve that tenderness inherently.

Technology Meets The Future The American Simmental Association (ASA), in conjunction with funding from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), has launched a carcass testing program. It combines the time-tested accuracies of Warner-Bratzler Shear Force (WBSF) testing and trained sensory panel evaluations to determine the tenderness and palatability differences in standardized cooked beef cuts.

For perspective, in this project the WBSF test measures the pounds of force required to cut through half-inch core samples of beef, prepared by using standardized and repeatable procedures at Kansas State University's meat lab. Basically, the more force it takes to cut through the meat, the less tender the meat and vice versa.

Although this type of data is not unique in and of itself, it serves as the foundation for subsequent research findings that transform this data into information that represents nothing short of space-age opportunity.

Specifically, geneticists at Cornell University, using genetic modeling, have determined that shear force values come with a fairly high genetic heritability. In other words, we can improve carcass tenderness by selecting for shear force measures and propagating sires that carry the genetics for lower shear force values.

This heritability estimate enabled Cornell researchers to devise the first set of EPDs (expected progeny differences) ever offered for shear force. More importantly, this step in genetic evaluation for tenderness opens the doors to new opportunities for improving meat tenderness and subsequent eating satisfaction through genetics.

As an example, the most important results of this extensive carcass study may come further down the road in the form of information gleaned from tissue and blood samples collected during the study. These samples are currently being tested for DNA markers that would allow us to specifically target more precise improvements in carcass tenderness, marbling and ribeye area (carcass yield).

Mapping A Steak What are these gene markers we've been hearing so much about? By identifying the gene loci - if and where these genes exist - it allows us to take a giant step ahead in learning whether genetics can help us to improve the quantitative traits that we want to improve genetically. In this case, quantitative traits include tenderness, muscle and marbling.

Bottom line, the carcass data set and subsequent analysis being compiled by ASA and Cornell can be used to identify the presence of gene markers in the sires and in the progeny of the sires represented in this test.

As interesting as all of this is, the answer most of us want to know is how this new technology may or may not impact our own operations. That in mind, we must first understand there are currently several gene-mapping businesses racing hard to become the industry's source for DNA-test and genetic improvement tools. If just one of these companies is successful, as technology advances and accuracy improves, cow/calf producers should be able to select from sires that have been DNA-verified to possess the specific genetic quantitative traits they are seeking to improve.

Consider this: Carcass traits are moderately to highly heritable, and evaluating genetics via actual carcass data takes at least two years from conception to harvest. That means DNA testing - a non-invasive, non-destructive technology - could significantly increase the rate of genetic advancement in the industry.

As with all cutting edge technology, the initial acquisition or entry cost will likely be expensive. However, as the technology improves and competition increases, the cost of these services should become more economical.

And, as exciting as this technology is, commercial and seedstock producers cannot afford to sacrifice other production traits in an all-out pursuit of tenderness. Mother Nature and the bovine species have an unyielding correction curve when selection pressure ignores the inherent antagonisms between the quantitative traits we strive to produce.

Knowing your market and designing progeny that meet production and palatability targets efficiently will provide business sustainability and increased market share for beef producers.

This said, however, this new technology holds tremendous potential to increase consumer demand for beef. Why? Because it should help us increase the consistency, palatability and eating satisfaction of our product.


Make your predictions for feedyard health, feed efficiency and carcass value/cwt.

The contest consists of five pens of cattle fed in a commercial feedyard. The test is to rank these pens from best to worst for the following three categories.

- Pen average feedyard health status will be based on the total dollars spent on treating sickness in each pen. This total will then be put on a per head basis. Fewer dollars spent for treatment per head is better.

- Pen average feedyard efficiency is the feed-to-gain ratio determined by dividing total pounds of feed consumed by the pen by the pounds of weight gain by the pen. This will be put on a dry matter basis.

- Pen average carcass value per cwt. of carcass weight will be calculated taking into account carcass quality grade, yield grade, carcass weights and discounted carcasses.

The tie breaker question will be an estimate of the range in carcass weight (lbs.) from the heaviest to the lightest carcass in Pen 4.