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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU collaborates on $9.75 million grant to study bovine respiratory disease

CLOVIS, N.M. - New Mexico State University is partnering with Texas A&M and other universities across the country on a $9.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to research bovine respiratory disease and how to reduce its prevalence in beef and dairy cattle.

The data collected through the $9.75 million grant will be used develop diagnostic tests and genetic selection tools to identify animals that are resistant to the bovine respiratory disease. (NMSU photo by Audry Olmsted)

NMSU's Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium, a Cooperative Extension Service program in Clovis aimed at ensuring long-term sustainability of New Mexico's dairy industry, will play a key role in making this research a success.

"NMSU got involved in this research because of the consortium and we can use this resource as a wraparound tool for this grant," said Robert Hagevoort, an Extension dairy specialist. "The consortium is a multi-state, multi-university, multi-disciplinary entity. We already have the tools in place for the teaching and extension side of this grant. By combining these with the research aspect of the grant, we are maximizing and leveraging the available resources that might not otherwise be available to NMSU or its students."

Milton Thomas, professor of animal and range sciences, and Tim Ross, department head of animal and range sciences, are co-principal investigators on the research.

Bovine respiratory disease is recognized as one of the leading causes of death in beef and dairy cattle, resulting in significant economic loss for farmers and ranchers, Hagevoort said. Typically, it is the calves that are affected by the disease.

"We have good medication to treat the disease, " Hagevoort said, "but we don't know if there is a subsequent effect that could influence their performance down the road after they are cured and go on to live their lives."," he said.

Researchers plan on finding 500 affected and 500 healthy dairy heifers in New Mexico and monitoring them from birth to calving and their first lactation. Hagevoort said there are indications that the disease could be genetic. Through this research, they will try to identify genetic markers for cattle that might be predisposed to the disease.

The data will be used to develop diagnostic tests and genetic selection tools to identify animals that are resistant to the disease. Animal welfare will also be assessed.

Scientists will already have contacts with dairies in New Mexico that are participating in the consortium that may be willing to participate in the project.

On the teaching side of the consortium, students from participating universities attend a six-week summer program that gives them hands-on experience learning large herd dairy management.

Hagevoort said the consortium's goals fit right in with what is being accomplished through the grant.

"We are already talking about the bovine respiratory disease through the consortium," Hagevoort said. "Now, we can pass along the information we find through this research and make that an emphasis of what we teach."

Scientists from the University of California-Davis, Colorado State University, the University of Missouri, Washington State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service are also studying BRD in their respective regions through this grant.