Apr 092012
Authors: Devin O'Brien

Brisket Disease, which affects livestock living at 6,500 feet above sea level, can cause fluid to fill the chest cavities of cattle and result in heart failure if the animal isn’t moved to a lower elevation for medical treatment.

This condition affects many livestock areas of the Rocky Mountain states in addition to Colorado, such as New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming, said clinical science professor Frank Garry.

And according to Garry, it’s time to become aware of this disease.

“I think it’s an important issue to be involved in,” Garry said.

The current method of testing for Brisket Disease is the pulmonary artery pressure, or PAP, test, where a catheter is inserted into the jugular vein to measure blood pressure. However, according to Dr. Milt Thomas, a professor of animal sciences and leader of the university’s Brisket Disease study, this test is influenced by the environment as well as an animal’s genetic makeup. Thomas and his team are developing a more genome-oriented tool.

According to Thomas, the disease’s high heritability makes it a complex trait influenced by many genes. He hopes that a genomic look at the problem will allow for a look at all of these genes.

“What is new with the Rouse Chair position is the addition of molecular genetics (i.e., DNA and RNA technology),” Thomas said in an email to the Collegian. “When we use these technologies to evaluate an animal’s entire genome (all its genes) then we are doing genomics. Therefore, we will merge quantitative and genomic technologies to develop a genome-enhanced EPD (Expected Progeny Difference) so we can rank the animals for genetic tolerance to high elevation.”

Brisket Disease has had an adverse effect on cattle. According to Tybar Ranch manager Mark Nieslanik, many calves with the disease were either stillborn, or died before or after weaning. According to Nieslanik, some high-elevation ranches have seen 25 percent losses from Brisket Disease.

In order to combat this problem, the Danciger Tybar ranch, allied with CSU’s Dr. Tim Holt, doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and animal sciences professor Dr. Mark Enns to create a new PAP Expected Progeny Difference, or EPD, test. With this new tool, cattle breeders will be better able to make decisions in their planning process. The Dancigr Tybar ranch has been using the PAP EPD in their breeding program with what Nieslanik called “great success.”

“Remember that what you plan for today will be the genetics that you will be living with three years down the road,” Nieslanik said. “One mistake can cost you not only money, but valuable time as well.”

Collegian writer Devin O’Brien can be reached at news@collegian.com

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