Hope for cattle farmers from bTB genetically resistant research
Cattle farmers could be able to genetically select for bovine tuberculosis resistance within two years.
A new joint research project backed by the levy-funded organisation DairyCo and implemented by Scotland's Rural College and Edinburgh University's Roslin Institute promises new horizons in the fight against bovine TB.
Over the next 18 months a new trait will be developed using the work from Defra-funded research, which will rank bulls for their resistance to TB.
DairyCo's head of genetics, Marco Winters, said this was a welcome development for the industry . . . but it would be just one useful weapon in the armoury and by no means a complete solution to the problem.
NEW FROM SYMPLY - a wet dog food in a tray freshly steamed with real meat and veg you can see minimum of 68% meat content up to 72% in the adult trays.
Terms: Come and try tray at introductory price of £1
Contact: 01271 440626
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
"The good news is we shall be able to identify those animals carrying a degree of resistance," he said. "But it's important to recognise that, as yet, we have no way of knowing how many there will be come the end of the project – or whether these will be animals the farmer wants to breed from because of other criteria he or she is aiming for.
"We must also remember this is a long-term initiative. We shan't be able to select bulls with resistant genes until April 2015, then their daughters will be entering the milking herd in 2018 at the earliest. While the trait for TB resistance is predicted to be moderately inheritable, once it is introduced it will take quite a few years before any effect on disease incidence is seen. But despite these notes of caution, this is a very positive step in the right direction."
Scotland's Rural College already provides genetic evaluations for UK dairy cattle on behalf of DairyCo through its EGENES service.
Professor Georgios Banos, who is leading the new project at Scotland's Rural College, said pedigree and performance data combined with national TB test results would feed into the model to rank cattle for their genetic resistance to TB.
"This will help us create the most appropriate model to assess the genetic merit of individual animals for TB resistance," he explained. "Based on this, the best animals will be available for selection to breed improved resistance to TB into the next generation. Although it's early days, it's particularly good news for farmers in regions where TB is most common. In the future they will be able to include this trait when they are making selection and mating decisions.
"Dairy farmers are already breeding animals selectively for traits such as better fertility, improved fitness and longer life spans, as well as milk yield and quality. Adding this new trait into the mix will further help their overall progress in achieving a profitable and sustainable outcome from their breeding programme."