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Genetic research being completed to help understand Stillbirths
April 3, 2017

The perception that “some calves are just born dead” is something Beth Scott wants to challenge.

Ms Scott, who grew up on a dairy farm in Gippsland and has her own Jersey stud, is studying her masters at Wagengingen University in the Netherlands.

She told the Herd 17 conference stillborn calves were “almost normalised” in the industry, with farmers accepting it was something that occasionally happened.

The definition of stillborn for her research is born dead at full term or dead within 24 hours of birth.

Ms Scott told the audience data suggested 6.8 per cent of Holstein calves were stillborn and 8.4 per cent of Jersey calves.

In Holsteins, she said some of the stillbirths were linked to calving difficulty.

But for Jerseys, 98 per cent calve unassisted, so she wanted to investigate if genetics played a role in the high stillbirth rate within the breed.

Acknowledging there were a number of factors that could influence stillbirths, Ms Scott said based on research from other countries there was evidence of low heritability with both the maternal and direct impacts on stillbirth. This research suggested a 7 per cent heritability impact from the sire of the cow that had the dead calf and 3 per cent from the sire of the calf, she said.

“To pinpoint the cause of it, we will need a lot of data from a lot of herds,” Ms Scott said.

Her research will include genomic and pedigree analysis.

Ms Scott called on farmers to submit calving records to herd test centres and also record novel traits.

She said two out of 10 farmers submitted calving records to herd test centres.

 

Source: The Weekly Times


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