Update on Health and Disease Recording 2013-2015

  • Post category:News

Quick glance at screen

In 2013 ICBF expanded the number of health traits farmers could record online and encouraged all HerdPlus members to record data on ICBF or allow data from their farm software to be transferred to ICBF. This call was put out to help ICBF work towards an overall health robustness trait for breeding healthier animals. In 2013, 794 herds recorded 33,163 health events which was a good start. In 2014, we did a pilot program asking a select group of farmers to record online and let us know any changes they would like to see to the screens or additional diseases. This led to us receiving 1206 herds recording 65,280 records. An excellent uptake, but the shine wore off for 489 herds which failed to record any health events in 2015, hopefully this drop was due to the herds not having any health events in 2015. In 2015, 289 herds decided to start recording and sharing their health data with ICBF, providing 52,272 records from 993 herds. One way to help ID herds that stay healthy was the creation of the “Healthy herd” button on ICBF’s health and disease in 2015 where a farmer could click a button to indicate all animals remained healthy. The addition of this option led to a further 91 herds recording which brought our total in 2015 to 1084 herds reporting some health data at least once during the year.

 Year Number of herds Health events recorded
2013 794 33,163
2014 1206 65,280
2015 993 52,272
Table showing the number of herds and the number of events recorded per year

When I first started looking into this data I was curious as to the average number of events recorded in a herd, but soon realized that it wouldn’t be as simple as that. Some herds have very few animals, while others have much larger numbers. To make the values a bit more fair, the average number of animals (total animals in that year = cows, heifers, steers, bulls, calves registered to a farm in 2015) was broken down into 3 categories <100, 100-250, 250-400, and >400 animals in the herd. All of the data recorded was able to be represented by using all animals in a herd rather than just the number of cows in a herd. This value was also used because the data comes from different types of herds. I also thought it was important to show both the average and the median values for the number of events recorded in the year. This way it demonstrates what kind of skew the data has, especially because the median was always quite a bit lower than the average so it might be a better representation as to what is “normal” on farms of different sizes.

Herd category Average # events Median # events Minimum # events Maximum # events
<100 animals in herd 30 4 1 489
100-250 animals in herd 48 12 1 925
250-300 animals in herd 73 20 1 1201
>400 animals in herd 85 36 1 865
Table showing the average, median, minimum, and maximum individual number of events recorded on farm in 2015

As you can see from the table above, there are farms with very few recorded health events and others had very frequent health events on farms. This is why it is so important to have continuous reporting on these farms. Once we can eliminate the management and climate effects with these animals, we will be able to better understand the genetic componant that keeps an animal healthy or lets them get sick no matter how good management is on farms.

Many more dairy farmers are recording health events when compared to beef farmers. In fact, 85% of the herds recording health events in 2015 were dairy farmers. With the introduction of the BDGP scheme we hope more beef farmers will begin recording more health events so that the number of events recorded increase as rapidly as the number of genotypes available.

 Herd type % herds-2014 % herds-2015
Beef 13% 12%
Dairy 82% 85%
Dual 4% 3%
Table showing the percent of herds recording broken down by herd type

While the number of events recorded may look impressive, it still isn’t enough yet. We need continuous recording of herds through the year so we can look at lineages that are more prone to becoming ill or remaining healthy and what animals have multiple health events over their life. Through collection of continuous data we will eventually be able to pinpoint genes responsible for healthier cattle to help when choosing replacement animals in the herd. Feel free to contact [email protected] if you have any questions or suggestions about health recording online.