It’s that time of year again; calving is beginning or has begun on many farms around Ireland. Three years ago we introduced defect recording online to all farmers and while uptake was fairly low, it began a framework that has grown into a project to identify causative mutations for some of the defects seen around Ireland. In 2015 we had 12 reported cases of calves born without tails which was a surprise. Most of these calves were just fine other than missing their tails, but it was very interesting so now we’re working on trying to find out what makes these animals genetically different and what causes the tails to be missing or short. I hope by next year we will be able to report we found exactly where in the genome the SNP (Single nucleotide polymorphism) that causes tailless-ness lies. In 2016 we saw very few reports of tail-less animals, but still a few trickled in so we have a number of samples to look at when we find candidate SNPs.
While we are still interested in any calves or animals with any type of deformities and hope farmers will continue to report to us, ICBF has decided to continue to target some very specific genetic defects in hopes of finding the causative mutation for these defects. If you are a farmer or a vet and have a calf with any defects we would appreciate you letting us know either through the online survey found here: (Genetic defect survey) or on the Health and Disease page which can be found under the Services tab on www. ICBF.com.
While tailless cattle were interesting, in 2016 we targeted a few more concerning diseases that can cause high mortality, are continuing to target them in 2017, but we encourage farmers to report all defects even if they are not on the list below. Without these reports we are not able to identify when new genetic defects are beginning to show up in our cattle population.
Specific diseases targeted in 2016 & 2017:
Atresia (ani, coli, and jujeni) – also known as “Waterbelly” and “No back passage”
Ventricular septal defect
French colleagues found the mutation responsible for Progressive Ataxia, and we are in the process of testing our samples which were sent in by farmers to ensure the same SNP that causes Progressive Ataxia in French cattle, is the same one found in Irish Cattle. Once this has been confirmed we will work towards having the SNP added to our next generation of IDB chip so farmers can test for it and other genetic diseases.
We are sending off samples from animals with Atresia (waterbelly) for sequencing through work with Dr. John Mee, and Dr. Orla Keene of Teagasc. Hopefully we’ll have a solution to this problem in the next year or two so that farmers can breed animals without worry of having a calf with this affliction.
Please continue to fill out the genetic defect survey if you have an animal born with a defect or email email@example.com to report any genetic defects so we can continue this exciting research.