The experimental vaccine for bovine malignant catarrhal fever consists of viable attenuated alcelaphine herpesvirus 1 (AlHV-1) derived by extensive culture passage, combined with an oil-in-water adjuvant, delivered intramuscularly. This immunisation strategy was over 80% effective in previous experimental and field trials and protection appeared to be associated with induction of virus-neutralising antibodies. Whether the vaccine virus is required to be viable at the point of immunisation and whether adjuvant is required to induce the appropriate immune responses remains unclear. To address these issues two studies were performed, firstly to analyse immune responses in the presence and absence of adjuvant and secondly, to investigate immune responses to vaccines containing adjuvant plus viable or inactivated AlHV-1. The first study showed that viable attenuated AlHV-1 in the absence of adjuvant induced virus-specific antibodies but the titres of virus-neutralising antibodies were significantly lower than those induced by vaccine containing viable virus and adjuvant, suggesting adjuvant was required for optimal responses. In contrast, the second study found that the vaccine containing inactivated (>99.9%) AlHV-1 induced similar levels of virus-neutralising antibody to the equivalent formulation containing viable AlHV-1. Together these studies suggest that the MCF vaccine acts as an antigen depot for induction of immune responses, requiring adjuvant and a suitable antigen source, which need not be viable virus. These observations may help in directing the development of alternative MCF vaccine formulations for distribution in the absence of an extensive cold chain.