Texas A&M University Identifying the Genetic Blueprint for Healthier Cattle

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is a combination of viral and bacterial cattle infections made worse by the stress of transportation to the feedlot. The USDA’s National Animal Health Monitoring System estimates that 21 percent of beef cattle placed in feedlots are infected with BRD, costing the industry approximately $692 million annually. The dairy industry faces similar losses.

Even when living in a stall next to an infected animal, not every cattle contracts BRD. In an ambitious six-institution study, scientists identified dairy calves that showed BRD symptoms and healthy animals in adjacent stalls. 1,500 sick animals and 1,500 healthy animals were all examined for genetic characteristics.

It’s inspiring and fascinating to imagine what genetic technology can accomplish. With the right combination of genes, one animal can do what three animals are doing today and be healthier.

– Dr. James Womack

The scientists found two dozen regions of the dairy cattle genome that could be associated with BRD resistance. The team will sample 2,000 beef cattle next to correlate their findings. Their discoveries will facilitate breeding animals that are less susceptible to the disease, thereby improving animal health while minimizing the industries’ losses.

The end goal: breeding enough resistance to lower the amount of drugs and antibiotics used in farms and feedlots throughout the U.S.

Retaking The Field Volume 2 “Retaking the Field: Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production” is a collaborative report from eleven universities and the SoAR Foundation. The report — the second in SoAR’s series — shows how scientists are solving some of the thorniest questions in food production and highlights research breakthroughs funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). It is part of SoAR’s broader education and advocacy to encourage additional federal support for food and agricultural research. View The Issue
Retaking the Field Volume 2: Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production Click to download report

More Stories from the community

Finding Resistance in the Saliva of Crop Pests

When caterpillars attack tomato plants, proteins in the insect saliva disarm the tomato defenses. Dr. Felton and his colleagues have identified another set of proteins in caterpillar saliva that signal to tomato plants to raise their defenses.

Read More