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Genetics of animal health and disease in cattle

DOI: 10.1186/2046-0481-64-5

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There continues to be very significant advances in efforts to control disease in cattle, with the potential for significant improvements to both performance and welfare. These advances have included improved understanding of disease pathophysiology and epidemiology, as well as the development of products such as antibiotics and anthelmintics for improved disease control.Concurrently, there have been considerable advances in animal breeding and genetics, relevant to animal disease control. These advances are of considerable veterinary interest, noting that observed animal performance is the outcome of the interaction between the animal's genetic makeup and the specific environment it was exposed to. Logically, therefore, improved genetics has the potential to complement current approaches to animal disease control. Improvement in animal health through genetic selection is advantageous, because genetic gain is cumulative and permanent, as the genes introduced into a population can persist for many generations. Unravelling the genetic architecture of health and disease resistance not only facilitates knowledge development on potential for breeding for improved health status but also generates knowledge for biomedical research in animals and humans including applications such as vaccine development.The objective of this review is to summarise research studies on the genetics of animal health and disease resistance in cattle, with particular reference to studies undertaken in Irish cattle. The implications of these results in breeding for improved animal health and disease resistance are discussed.Prior to discussing the genetics of animal health and disease resistance, the terms commonly used by animal breeders to describe the characteristics of a population need to be explained:The phenotype is simply the observed performance of an animal "in the field" (e.g., dystocia in cows or the presence or absence of infection as measured by a positive or negative diagnostic test


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