In beginning his presentation, Dr Brad Hine noted that his aim was for delegates to understand that, ‘Selecting for productivity is not the same as selecting for health and fitness.’
Much of Brad’s work at CSIRO centers around reducing the use of antibiotics in food producing animals, because there is increased consumer awareness and concern regarding the use.
In beef breeding herds, ‘If we continue to select for production and ignore health and fitness, we are going to reduce the capacity of our animals to resist disease.’
‘While restrictions on the use of antibiotics in food producing animals, will reduce our ability to treat disease.’
So what can we do as an industry?
According to Brad, ‘we need to develop lots of different strategies in combination, around genetics, environment and management.’
From a genetics perspective, the ImmundeDEX technology will be a long-term strategy trying to improve the genetic ability of animals in our herds to resist disease.
Breeders should also develop strategies to reduce the environmental pathogen load and look at finding alternatives to antibiotic use.
With all of this in mind, the conference was used to introduce ImmuneDEX, an index which predicts the ability of an animal to mount an immune response under stress. It describes an animal’s immune competence, which we expect will reflect their broad disease resistance and will allow Angus producers to place selection emphasis on immune competence for the first time.