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Emerging Technologies Committee

Genetics of Feedlot Health

by Troy Smith for Angus Productions Inc.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 30, 2010) — Bovine respiratory disease takes a terrible toll on the U.S. cattle feeding industry. During the 2010 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium, Colorado State University Animal Scientist Mark Enns said the industry’s disease prevention and treatment costs are estimated to be in excess of $3 billion annually. To a geneticist like Enns, that’s ample reason to ponder whether susceptibility to disease is, in part, controlled by genetics.

In a presentation to the Emerging Technologies Committee, Enns described how he and a research team are looking for ways to reduce susceptibility to respiratory disease through genetic selection. For two years, data has been collected on cattle fed according to a “typical” feedyard protocol. Along with animal performance and carcass data, the cattle were evaluated for stress and behavior, as well as incidence of disease. Stress was evaluated by assigning exit velocity scores as individual animals were released from the processing chute, plus scoring of general behavior when handled.

“You can’t select for a trait unless it is heritable,” Enns said. “And according to our preliminary results, there appears to be genetic variation for susceptibility to disease. Its heritability is about 0.15.”

What comes next is more analysis. Enns said he is hopeful that the results will reveal markers for genes associated with an animal’s ability to cope with stress and markers for genes related to immunologic ability to resist disease. Together, he said, they could be used to select breeding animals with reduced susceptibility to respiratory disease.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

API's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship by BioZyme Inc. through its significant gift to the Angus Foundation. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus e-List, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the API Virtual Library.


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