BHC_Newsletter_Summer FINAL

The importance of capturing and recording health data

Dr Stephen Conroy, ICBF, G€N€ IR€LAND Progeny Test Centre, Tully, Kildare

R ecent work by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and Teagasc has demonstrated that there is a genetic component among animals in the response (i.e., negative or positive) to tests for different diseases such as Johne’s Disease and TB. This discovery has led to the idea that other diseases such as pneumonia, scour, and mastitis, may also have a genetic component which could be subsequently exploited in a national breeding programme. Given that breeding has contributed to approximately 50% of gains in performance in cattle (and other species) it is important to quantify the potential of cattle breeding as part of a strategy to achieving a healthier national herd. Genetics is cumulative and permanent which means that when good genes are introduced into a population of animals they have long-term favourable effects. Equally, bad genes can have long-term unfavourable effect and can be difficult to breed out. It is well recognised that animal health is one of the major costs associated with raising cattle in Ireland. Teagasc has estimated that the average veterinary/animal health costs are approximately €60 per dairy cow in 2014 1 . Losses from liver fluke infection are even more shocking with an estimated €90 million in losses annually and up to 20% reduction in meat yield when cattle become infected 2 . Herd health status can be maintained through the appropriate management (e.g., biosecurity), but ICBF is attempting to complement such strategies by addressing the genetic component of animal susceptibility to these different health events. In March of 2014, ICBF launched a new health recording screen (see below). The screen allows farmers to record health and disease events. To date, fourteen hundred farmers have recorded health events through to the ICBF database. Also, some abattoirs are now recording data on fluke, pneumonia and other diseases on all animals at slaughter.

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1 https://www.agriland.ie/farming-news/tips-average-veterinaryanimal-health-costing-dairy-farmers-e60cow/ 2 http://www.animalhealthireland.ie/ckfinder/userfiles/files/20130517%20PC%20LiverFluke%20Ver%202_0.pdf

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