Genetic selection has a role to play in TB battle

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Dairy farmers will be able to genetically select for Bovine TB resistance within two years, researchers claim.

But the breakthrough will not offer a complete solution to the disease which is currently being dealt with by pilot badger culls in the South of England, the team working on a DairyCo-funded project say.

Over the next 18 months, a new trait will be developed which will rank bulls for their resistance to Bovine TB.

DairyCo’s head of genetics Marco Winters said the project was a welcome development for the industry, but its results would offer just one useful weapon in the armoury to combat the disease.

“The good news is we will be able to identify those animals carrying a degree of resistance; however, it’s important to recognise that as yet, we have no way of knowing how many there will be come the end of the project or whether these will be animals the farmer wants to breed from because of other criteria he or she is aiming for,” Mr Winters said.

He warned that there would be no instant results from the research in the battle to drive the disease out of British wildlife.

Mr Winters said: “We must also remember this is a long-term initiative. We won’t be able to select bulls with resistant genes until April 2015, then their daughters will be entering the milking herd in 2018 at the earliest.

“While the trait for Bovine TB resistance is predicted to be moderately heritable, once it is introduced it will take a quite a few years before any effect on disease incidence is seen. However, despite these notes of caution, this is a very positive step in the right direction.”

The research project is a collaboration between Scotland’s Rural College and Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute.

Defra currently classes Yorkshire as a low-risk 
area for the Bovine TB infection.