Translating High Immune Response (HIR™) Genomics to Improve Beef Cattle Health and Welfare


Agriculture & Food


High Immune Response (HIR™) is a patented test developed by Dr. Bonnie Mallard and colleagues of the University of Guelph that identifies animals with naturally superior immunity. First used successfully in dairy cattle, the test is now being adapted to fight Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD), the costliest disease of beef cattle raised on feedlots. BRD results in the death of some 53,000 beef cattle in Canada each year, an economic loss of more than $100 million. In North America as a whole, the estimated annual cost of BRD as high as $1 billion dollars/year. Dr. Mallard is working with the Semex Alliance and through them, the Canadian Angus Association (CAA) and the American Angus Association (AAA), to develop an HIR™ genomics test for beef cattle. The application of the test could result in a significant (20-50 per cent) reduction in deaths among calves from birth to weaning age and reduce the need for antibiotics throughout the lifetime of beef cattle. All Angus bulls marketed in Canada and the United States will have access to the HIR™-genomic test, allowing beef producers to select bulls for breeding purposes better equipped to improve animal health and welfare. The new test will demonstrate the leadership provided by Semex, the CAA and the AAA in beef cattle genomics. Integration of the HIR™ technology and selective breeding for enhanced immunity in the North American Angus population is expected to cumulatively increase BRD resistance of beef cattle over multiple generations, which if fully applied, could ultimately reduce the costs of BRD in North America by $500 million per year, $65 million of which will be in Canada. Reduced use of antibiotics will provide further benefits to consumers and retailers.