Each year in Australia, infectious diseases cost the red meat industry over $2 billion. One of the infectious diseases of concern is bovine respiratory disease, which can be fatal in young calves. Traditionally cattle have been treated with antibiotics to keep them healthy, but now the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researchers believe they have discovered an alternative.
By breeding cattle that are genetically more disease resistant the team have been able to improve herd health. The researchers were able to identify genetic traits in Angus cattle that indicate strong immune systems. By genetically selecting for this trait, the researchers were able to identify the males most suitable to father the next generation of calves.
By breeding naturally healthier cattle, the need for antibiotic use in the herd dropped, saving money, and improving the welfare of the cattle. The team has now used this information to create a breeding index to make it easier for Australian farmers to identify the males best suited to producing healthy young.
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