There's been a breakthrough in research into a worrying increase in deformities in Angus calves born in recent years, including an increase in the number of calves born with extra limbs and spinal problems.

Some Angus calves were presenting with five or six limbs, causing some criticism of breeding methods used by Angus breeders to increase the productivity and marbling in their cattle.

Researchers in the United States have been working on the root cause of the deformities and have identified a recessive gene which cattle can now be tested for in Australia.

Dr Laurence Denholm, a principle policy analyst with the NSW Department of Trade and Investment says the research has given the industry something to work with.

He's now urging breeders to monitor calves born and notify their LHPA vet of any birth defects seen.

Dr Denholm says all breeds of cattle, all animal species in fact are subject to some genetic deformities. But he says Angus breeders have recently seen a higher incidence due to their intense focus on breeding for improved production outcomes.

"These genes are present in all species, including man; they tend to be concentrated when you're driving high selection for improved productivity.

"As we go down this pathway of using DNA technology to improve productivity in cattle, at the same time as we deal with the good genes we have to learn how to deal with the bad genes."

The Angus Association's Peter Parnell says the industry has known for some time about the problems in certain lines of Angus.

He says unfortunately they are also the lines that also have the most sought after traits for breeding such as marbling.

Peter Parnell is urging any producers that are noticing problems with genetic defects to contact their local vets, LHPA or the Angus Association.

He is confident that with the new genetic testing they can identify the animals in the herd or the animal used in breeding that may be carrying the recessive gene.

Once all of the animals are identified that may have a problem they can breed away from those genetics.

Peter Parnell is confident that the Angus community, using the new genetic tests, can very rapidly remove this genetic problem from the Angus herd both here in Australia and overseas.


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