What is commonly considered a minor ailment for most humans can become a big problem for cattle herds and one of our FFA students set out to learn more about how to stop it.
Vinita High School Junior Jaqueline Bandy’s Agriscience competition project that she started on during her eighth-grade year was to research bovine pinkeye. She’s won several awards with her project, including fourth place at the 2019 National FFA Convention in Division I Animal Science. This was her Career Development Education (CDE) project.
“The goal was to find if a regional-specific vaccine would be more effective in preventing bovine pinkeye than vaccines made to treat general strands,” she explained. “This information could be used by other ranchers when choosing a vaccine for bovine pinkeye.
“Another goal was to see if a vaccine made for a specific region was more effective in general to decide if other vaccines should be developed on the idea of regional specific vaccines,” Jaqueline concluded.
The project was far more than just studying veterinary textbooks!
Jaqueline’s project was based on the comparison of regional specific vaccines for bovine pinkeye to general-use vaccines. “The first step of the project was to research vaccines and bovine pinkeye. I spoke with veterinarians, local ranchers, sale barns, and read about previous research,” she said.
Her research revealed that pinkeye was costly to the cattle industry because just one infected calf could cost a rancher more than $800 to treat. Now, imagine that among a herd if it spreads!
Jaqueline then designed an experiment to learn more.
“The first major issue I encountered was the fact it was winter and pinkeye was rare to find,” she said. “I concluded from the research I would still be able to gather the pinkeye bacteria from the eyes with a swab because it is present at all times.”
Her first samples were used to ensure the bacteria was there and it did in fact grow in the Petri dish. When choosing cattle to test, she selected a group that was not on the family ranch the previous spring.
“This was to lessen the variables in the experiment since I could easily track where the cattle had been and to ensure the bacteria would be local since there are several pinkeye strains,” Jaqueline explained.
Next, she chose which vaccines she would use to compare, which included a locally created vaccine and penicillin (often used to treat bovine pinkeye). The effectiveness was measured by zone of inhibition, she said.
We asked Jaqueline how this project furthered her passion for her chosen topic. She discovered a passion for much more.
“Through this project, I found my passion for research and answering the unknown. I have always been around cattle and ranching but being able to provide answers and information to better the industry only makes me want to answer more questions,” she said. “My project started with the simple question while we were working cattle on our family ranch ‘We are almost out of pinkeye bacterin. You think it would hurt to just use something else?’.
“I could not answer the question of whether it would make a big deal if we stopped using the vaccine,” she concluded. “I needed to find the answer.”
We love how our students not only learn practical knowledge that affects their industries, but also find a passion to gain more knowledge. Jacqueline said she would like to be a veterinarian and her experiences in the Agriscience program will help her in that career. As part of being a veterinarian, she wants to do more research and develop treatments and vaccines for animal diseases.
We asked Jaqueline her advice for anyone who shows an interest in studying bovine eye diseases.
“First and foremost, understand the disease you choose. Know how it spreads, how long it lasts, the cost for treatments, and the recovery rate,” she said. “Eye disease is an important issue in the cattle industry that is overlooked often.
“Most people do not understand the large impact on rancher when their herd is infected. Look for cures or vaccines available and speak to ranchers to understand their view on the disease and not just the view of the researchers.”
Good advice to ask those closely affected! We also asked Jaqueline’s advice for future FFA students looking for a good research or competition project. We ask this question of every student we interview about their projects and the advice is always great! We love that our students show the same level of enthusiasm for helping their fellow students as they do in completing their own projects.
“Finding a topic to research can be a struggle. I suggest simply looking around and finding something that you don’t understand. Ask the questions how does it work, does it work, and how could I make this better,” Jaqueline said.
She continued to say that after finding your topic of interest, begin researching by talking to people who work in the industry or have experience dealing with the problem you are trying to solve. This is, of course, in addition to reading plenty of published articles on the topic.
“I feel I learned more by talking to veterinarians, ranchers, and people I met at the sale barn because they all had an inside view to the disease and described things they noticed which I had not always seen at first,” she said.
Jacqueline went on to advise on the next steps of an FFA project.
“Creating an experiment is always challenging. For this, come up with multiple ways to experiment that could be used to answer your question,” she said.
Jaqueline also encouraged students to be persistent.
“Things do not always go as planned. If you have a backup from the start, then you are one step ahead. Never give up on finding answers; instead, ask the question a different way.