In the current climate of consumer concern for both improved food-safety and animal well-being an alternative approach for disease prevention of livestock is urgently needed.  Selective breeding to enhance immune responsiveness should be considered a novel and prophylactic approach to improve animal health. Previous research indicates that it is possible to breed pigs for high (H) and low (L) immune responses using estimated breeding values (EBV) of antibody (AMIR) and cellmediated immune responses (CMIR) (Mallard et al., 1998a). High responders had enhanced response to vaccination and increased rate of gain. There is substantial evidence in dairy cattle that innate and acquired defense mechanisms are impaired during the peripartum period when disease occurrence is maximal (Kehrli et al., 1989a ; 1989b ; Mallard et al., 1998b). Therefore identification of cows that do not exhibit lowered immune responses around calving may positively influence both cow and calf health. To test this hypothesis, a quantitative approach was devised to classify dairy cows based on phenotypic variation of peripartum serum antibody responses to an inert antigen, ovalbumin (OVA) (Wagter et al., 2000). Using an immune response (IR) index, cows could be identified as H, L or average responders. High responders had both higher serum and whey antibodies post immunization to OVA and to a J5 E. coli vaccine. High responders also had decreased mastitis in 2 out of 3 herds tested (Wagter et al., 2000).

A. Hernandez, Niel A Karrow, B. N Wilkie, B. A Mallard

Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume 2002. Session 13, , 13.45, 2002
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