Ex­perts aim to breed for TB re­sis­tance

Irish Independent - Farming - - News - Dar­ragh McCul­lough

RE­SEARCHERS be­lieve that farm­ers will be able to breed in­creas­ing re­sis­tance to com­mon dis­eases such as mas­ti­tis, lame­ness and even TB in cat­tle pop­u­la­tions of the fu­ture.

New data shows that the her­i­tabil­ity of an­i­mal re­sis­tance to TB runs at 11pc in the na­tional cat­tle herd.

Trin­ity re­searcher Ian Richard­son an­a­lysed the parent­age of over 10,000 an­i­mals slaugh­tered from herds with TB re­ac­tors.

It showed that up to 98pc of some bull's off­spring suc­cumbed to the disease. This con­trasts with sus­cep­ti­bil­ity lev­els of 20pc or lower in the vast ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion.

The Ir­ish Cat­tle Breed­ing Fed­er­a­tion (ICBF) be­lieve that huge strides can be made in this lat­est fron­tier of cat­tle breed­ing.

“Fer­til­ity has a her­i­tabil­ity of just 3pc and we've turned around the fer­til­ity of the na­tional herd in the space of 10 years with the use of fer­til­ity in­dexes,” said ICBF ge­neti­cist, An­drew Cromie.


It is es­ti­mated that the drop in fer­til­ity in the na­tional herd here dur­ing the last 20 years cost Ir­ish farm­ers €800m in lost earn­ings.

“But for a whole range of dis­eases from Johnes, IBR, TB, mas­ti­tis and lame­ness the her­i­tabil­ity is much stronger than what we had to work with in fer­til­ity.

“Some groups of cat­tle that we've looked at showed a her­i­tabil­ity for TB of 18pc, while IBR could be as high as 28pc, which is al­most the same as milk pro­duc­tion,” he said.

Johnes and BVD have a her­i­tabil­ity of 10pc, while lame­ness and mas­ti­tis are closer to 5pc, ac­cord­ing to Ir­ish re­search.

Dr Cromie hopes that in­for­ma­tion from meat pro­cess­ing plants will soon al­low ge­neti­cists to get a han­dle on the her­i­tabil­ity of other dis­eases such as pneu­mo­nia, scour and fluke.

The 140-cow Next Gen­er­a­tion herd was set up in Moorepark last year to specif­i­cally look at some of th­ese is­sues.

How­ever, data from the herd is lim­ited with the cows only en­ter­ing their sec­ond lac­ta­tion this spring.


“As reg­u­la­tions get tighter on the use of medicines and an­tibi­otics, its go­ing to be even more im­por­tant that farm­ers are breed­ing an­i­mals that are as disease re­sis­tant as pos­si­ble,” added Dr Cromie.

“There's no sil­ver bul­let here but there are big gains for the whole in­dus­try to work to­gether on this.”

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