Why bother record health and disease data? 

The main reason to record health and disease data is to have healthier cows and calves.

Health and disease are an ever increasing cost on Irish cattle farms. Recent work by ICBF and Teagasc has indicated substantial genetic variation in health and disease traits. For example; new work by Teagasc indicated a heritability of 18% for TB incidence and 5% for mastitis incidence. This indicates that improvement by genetic means is possible. Until reliable data becomes available for a number of health and disease events we will not be able to address the genetics behind them.

By capturing data on farm in real-time we will generate a large volume of good quality data that will go towards creating a health index in the future which can be used to identify superior sires and mating. Only after good quality data is collected can we start working on helping farmers have a healthier herd.

Recent work by the ICBF and Teagasc has demonstrated that there is a genetic component to animals that test positive for different diseases such as Johne’s and TB. This discovery has led us to the idea that other diseases such as pneumonia, scour, and mastitis etc., may have a genetic component as well.

By identifying animals that have gotten sick and animals that have remained well while their cohorts became ill we will be able to identify calves and cows that are more robust and don’t get sick as much. This kind of research requires a lot of data before we can start identifying the animals with superior genetics. Farmers are the best source for this data because they spend the most time with their animals and are the first to know when something isn’t right.

Caitriona Scanlan, Data Analyst at the ICBF. 

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