TB Free England

Bovine TB (bTB) devastates thousands of farming family businesses every year and tens of thousands of cattle are culled annually in England because of it. Find out more about bTB, its impact, and why we must use all available options to make England TB free.

 Cattle culled in England because of bovine TB since January 1 2008

New genetic index aims to help fight against bTB

A new genetic index has been launched which will help farmers in the UK breed dairy cows with better resistance to bovine TB.

Called the TB Advantage, the index has been developed following extensive research undertaken by the University of Edinburgh, Roslin Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and supported by Defra, the Welsh Government, and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The index will give an indication of an animal’s genetic susceptibility to bTB, highlighting those which may be more prone to infection or – at the other extreme – those which have a higher degree of resistance to the disease.

By selecting bulls with a high score for TB Advantage, farmers will be able to breed better resistance into their herds, which – like all genetic improvement – will accumulate over generations leading to long-term benefits. It is the first genetic index in the world to be developed to help farmers breed better resistance to bTB into their herds.

Used alongside existing bTB control measures, including high levels of biosecurity, protecting cattle against infected wildlife, and routinely monitoring cattle for the disease, the index is expected to play a part in the fight to eradicate bTB.

Marco Winters, head of genetics for AHDB Dairy, said: “Tackling any problem through breeding is a long-term, sustainable approach and can yield worthwhile rewards.

“However, breeders of dairy cattle have to consider a number of traits which are important to their business and their cattle, and breeding for TB resistance should be only a small part of their broader breeding strategy.

“We know that improvement through breeding is a long-term approach to any problem but this will stack the odds of fighting bTB in the farmer’s favour and play a part in the plan to eradicate bTB from the UK.”