• Evidence for genetic variance in resistance to tuberculosis in Great Britain and Irish Holstein-Friesian populations

      Bermingham, Mairead L; Brotherstone, Susan; Berry, Donagh; More, Simon J; Good, Margaret; Cromie, A. R.; White, Ian MS; Higgins, Isabella; Coffey, Mike P.; Downs, Sara H; et al. (Biomed Central, 2011-06-03)
      Background: Here, we jointly summarise scientific evidence for genetic variation in resistance to infection with Mycobacterium bovis, the primary agent of bovine tuberculosis (TB), provided by two recent and separate studies of Holstein-Friesian dairy cow populations in Great Britain (GB) and Ireland. Methods: The studies quantified genetic variation within archived data from field and abattoir surveillance control programmes within each country. These data included results from the single intradermal comparative tuberculin test (SICTT), abattoir inspection for TB lesions and laboratory confirmation of disease status. Threshold animal models were used to estimate variance components for responsiveness to the SICTT and abattoir confirmed M. bovis infection. The link functions between the observed 0/1 scale and the liability scale were the complementary log-log in the GB, and logit link function in the Irish population. Results and discussion: The estimated heritability of susceptibility to TB, as judged by responsiveness to the SICTT, was 0.16 (0.012) and 0.14 (0.025) in the GB and Irish populations, respectively. For abattoir or laboratory confirmation of infection, estimates were 0.18 (0.044) and 0.18 (0.041) from the GB and the Irish populations, respectively. Conclusions: Estimates were all significantly different from zero and indicate that exploitable variation exists among GB and Irish Holstein Friesian dairy cows for resistance to TB. Epidemiological analysis suggests that factors such as variation in exposure or imperfect sensitivity and specificity would have resulted in underestimation of the true values.
    • Genetics of animal health and disease in cattle

      Berry, Donagh; Bermingham, Mairead L; Good, Margaret; More, Simon J (Biomed Central, 2011-03-31)
      There have been considerable recent advancements in animal breeding and genetics relevant to disease control in cattle, which can now be utilised as part of an overall programme for improved cattle health. This review summarises the contribution of genetic makeup to differences in resistance to many diseases affecting cattle. Significant genetic variation in susceptibility to disease does exist among cattle suggesting that genetic selection for improved resistance to disease will be fruitful. Deficiencies in accurately recorded data on individual animal susceptibility to disease are, however, currently hindering the inclusion of health and disease resistance traits in national breeding goals. Developments in 'omics' technologies, such as genomic selection, may help overcome some of the limitations of traditional breeding programmes and will be especially beneficial in breeding for lowly heritable disease traits that only manifest themselves following exposure to pathogens or environmental stressors in adulthood. However, access to large databases of phenotypes on health and disease will still be necessary. This review clearly shows that genetics make a significant contribution to the overall health and resistance to disease in cattle. Therefore, breeding programmes for improved animal health and disease resistance should be seen as an integral part of any overall national disease control strategy.
    • Implementing biosecurity measures on dairy farms in Ireland

      Sayers, Riona; Sayers, Gearoid; Mee, John F; Good, Margaret; Bermingham, Mairead L; Grant, Jim; Dillon, Pat; Irish Dairy Levy Research Trust (Elsevier, 2012-12-29)
      Dairy farms in Ireland are expanding in preparation for a new era of unrestricted milk production with the elimination of the European Union (EU) production quotas in 2015. Countries experiencing a changing agricultural demographic, including farm expansion, can benefit from documenting the implementation of on-farm biosecurity. The objectives of this study were to document and describe influences on biosecurity practices and related opinions on dairy farms. A representative response rate of 64% was achieved to a nationwide telesurvey of farmers. A 20% discrepancy was found between self-declared and truly ‘closed’ herds indicating a lack of understanding of the closed herd concept. Although >72% of farmers surveyed considered biosecurity to be important, 53% stated that a lack of information might prevent them from improving their biosecurity. Logistic regression highlighted regional, age, and farm-size related differences in biosecurity practices and opinions towards its implementation. Farmers in the most dairy cattle dense region were three times more likely to quarantine purchased stock than were their equivalents in regions where dairy production was less intense (P = 0.012). Younger farmers in general were over twice as likely as middle-aged farmers to implement biosecurity guidelines (P = 0.026). The owners of large enterprises were almost five times more likely to join a voluntary animal health scheme (P = 0.003), and were over three times more likely to pay a premium price for health accredited animals (P = 0.02) than were those farming small holdings. The baseline data recorded in this survey will form the basis for more detailed sociological and demographic research which will facilitate the targeting of future training of the farming community in biosecurity.