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.