Australia Tackles Angus Challenges

AUSTRALIA - Australia is at the forefront of strategies to manage and eradicate the genetic defect Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM) from the nation’s Angus herd according to Angus Australia’s breed development manager and acting CEO Carel Teseling, at present in America.
calendar icon 16 December 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Mr Teseling said a relatively low cost test will be available in Australia before Christmas and already 500 DNA samples are waiting at the University of Queensland laboratories to be tested as soon as the test becomes available in Australia.

AM, formerly known as Curly Calf Syndrome, is a lethal genetic defect. Affected calves are usually stillborn with a bent and twisted spine, are small and appear thin due to limited muscle development. Legs are often rigid and may be hyper extended or contracted. However, the number of reported observations of possible AM calves is very low and there is certainly no need for panic according to Mr. Teseling.

Because the genetic lines that may carry the disease were quickly identified, each of the 1.2 million pedigrees in Angus Australia’s database is now tagged with the percentage chance the animal is a carrier. As further test results from both Australia and America are loaded, these percentages will adjust on a weekly basis.

"The discovery of AM in the Angus herd is certainly not a disaster but is considered significant enough to put the effort into eradicating it"
CEO Carel Teseling, Angus Australia’s breed development manager

“With DNA testing and computers, industry researchers have been able to develop management solutions and testing regimes, something that would not have been possible a decade ago,” said Mr Teseling.

“Australia is the only country in the world identifying AM Suspect (AMS) pedigrees and we believe it is this transparency that will provide the platform to control the problem so it has no effect in the nation’s commercial herd.

“There is certainly no reason to panic because the huge database of pedigrees has allowed us to identify in a matter of hours the suspect cattle in our registered herd and they can now be tested and managed in a way that will minimise the risk.

“The aim of Angus Australia’s directors and management has been to support members and their commercial bull clients and we believe we have been successful with this.

“Members should also be aware it will not be necessary to test whole herds, only the most significant animals such as sires and embryo donor dams.

“The discovery of AM in the Angus herd is certainly not a disaster but is considered significant enough to put the effort into eradicating it which is certainly possible in the near future”, he said.

While in America Mr Teseling met with senior management at both the Angus and Red Angus societies to share strategies. He also spent valuable time with Dr Jon Beever, a molecular geneticist and associate professor at the University of Illinois, widely regarded as a world leader in the identification on genetic defects and the development of tests for the problems. Three months after receiving 19 DNA samples from Angus breeders Dr Beever was able to identify the causative mutation of AM in Angus and develop a test.

Dr Beever worked with the American Hereford Association for three years prior to 2008 to establish a test for Idiopathic Epilepsy (IE), a genetic defect in Hereford cattle. The defect manifests itself in epileptic-like seizures and those afflicted have a poor survival rate.

In addition to these achievements Beever identified and developed a test to screen for the molecular defect causing Spider Lamb Syndrome (June 1997) in sheep, the genetic defect causing Tibial Hemimelia (August 2005) in mainly Shorthorn and some Simmental cattle and the gene that causes Pulmonary Hypoplasia in Dexter cattle.

“I am delighted the way Angus Australia’s board of directors, its staff, semen production companies and particularly our members have approached the problem in a logical and positive way and results are now being seen. Angus Australia will emerge from this situation a stronger organisation knowing it has the ability to overcome obstacles,” said Mt Teseling.

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