Angus in pasture

When a defect surfaces, beef breeds put the wheels in motion to determine the cause.

Dan Moser, president of Angus Genetics Inc., a subsidiary of the American Angus Association, says breeders are vigilant when a commercial customer reports a problem.

“We have a reporting procedure that is followed, and if we see something out of the ordinary, we will gather as much information as possible,” he says. That usually includes necropsy results, DNA samples and parentage information.

The Angus breed works with University of Nebraska veterinarian David Steffen when cases need investigation.

“He is an expert with congenital conditions, and his research has involved several breeds,” Moser says.

If the issue is determined to be genetic in origin, that information will be added to the breed database.

“If the carrier can or cannot be used, we share that information,” Moser says. “Testing becomes mandatory, and the info is passed along to breeders.”

He adds even if an animal might be a carrier, the data allows breed associations to identify clean descendants of that animal.

Mutations occur when cells fail to replicate, says Jon Beever, an animal scientist and director of the Genome Center for the Advancement of Agriculture at the University of Tennessee. Beever has worked with several beef breeds, including the Angus breed.

“Mutations are vast in nature, simply because of the number of cells and the need for all of them to replicate,” he says.

Beever says seedstock producers who notice persistent issues are encouraged to contact their veterinarian and breed associations. Moser says breed associations are prepared to handle genetic situations as they arise.

“Mutations happen in every generation of every organism, so it’s nothing new,” he says. “We have the technical ability to sequence and identify changes, and to address those situations quickly.”

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.