The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded two major grants totaling more than $14 million to researchers at the University of Missouri and Texas A&M University for conducting research on Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) and feed efficiency. These issues are of vital economic significance to the cattle industry and are priority areas for improving cattle health and production.
The United States has the world’s fourth largest cattle population. More than 970,000 farms raise beef cattle, contributing to a $71 billion retail value. Yet, farmers and feedlot operators spend millions of dollars every year feeding some cattle that don’t grow efficiently. Simultaneously, when cattle are brought together in feedlots, they can be exposed to Bovine Respiratory Disease, leading to significant economic losses and reduced animal well-being.
Researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) will lead the research on the $9.2 million BRD project and will be key participants in the University of Missouri-led $5 million project aimed at improving feed efficiency in cattle.
Dr. James Womack, W.P. Luse Endowed & Distinguished Professor at the CVM, is the project director for the five-year grant to help reduce the incidence of BRD in beef and dairy cattle. BRD is the leading cause of disease death in beef and dairy cattle, resulting in annual losses of more than $690 million nationally.
Dr. Jerry Taylor, Wurdack Chair in Animal Genomics a the University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, will serve as project director of the $5 million grant to study feed efficiency in cattle.
With this grant, researchers hope to accomplish the goal of reducing the incidence of BRD through the identification of genetic components that provide resistance to pathogens that cause the disease. For this, Womack and his team will work with commercial feedlots to analyze the DNA of more than 6,000 cattle. The investigators will then develop selective breeding programs based on their research, which will result in improved animal health management strategies and provide an understanding of the biological interactions between the host and the disease-causing pathogens.
In addition to funding research, this grant will also help fund undergraduate, veterinary, and graduate education. It will also facilitate the translation of research into practical application in feedlots and dairy farms through a dedicated extension component.