Breeding Angus for improved health

August 21, 2019 11:30 am

In  beginning  his  presentation,  Dr  Brad  Hine  noted  that  his  aim  was  for  delegates  to understand  that,  ‘Selecting  for  productivity  is  not  the  same  as  selecting  for  health and fitness.’

Much  of  Brad’s  work  at  CSIRO  centers  around  reducing  the  use  of  antibiotics  in  food producing animals, because there is increased consumer awareness and concern regarding the use.

In  beef  breeding  herds,  ‘If  we  continue  to  select  for  production  and  ignore  health  and  fitness, we are going to reduce the capacity of our animals to resist disease.’

‘While  restrictions  on  the  use  of  antibiotics  in  food  producing  animals,  will  reduce  our ability to treat disease.’

So what can we do as an industry?

According to Brad, ‘we need to develop lots of different strategies in combination, around genetics, environment and management.’

From  a  genetics  perspective,  the  ImmundeDEX  technology  will  be  a  long-term  strategy trying to improve the genetic ability of animals in our herds to resist disease.

Breeders should also develop strategies to reduce the environmental pathogen load and look at finding alternatives to antibiotic use.

With all of this in mind, the conference was used to introduce ImmuneDEX, an index which predicts the ability of an animal to mount an immune response under stress. It describes an animal’s immune competence, which we expect will reflect their broad disease resistance and will allow Angus producers to place selection emphasis on immune competence for the first time.