1 Department of Basic Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Department of Basic Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 IKVH Animal Genetics, Bioinformatics, and breeding, Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet3 unknown
Background: Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) or 'pinkeye' is an economically important ocular disease that significantly impacts animal performance. Genetic parameters for IBK infection and its genetic and phenotypic correlations with cattle tick counts, number of helminth (unspecified species) eggs per gram of faeces and growth traits in Australian tropically adapted Bos taurus cattle were estimated. Methods: Animals were clinically examined for the presence of IBK infection before and after weaning when the calves were 3 to 6 months and 15 to 18 months old, respectively and were also recorded for tick counts, helminth eggs counts as an indicator of intestinal parasites and live weights at several ages including 18 months. Results: Negative genetic correlations were estimated between IBK incidence and weight traits for animals in pre-weaning and post-weaning datasets. Genetic correlations among weight measurements were positive, with moderate to high values. Genetic correlations of IBK incidence with tick counts were positive for the pre-weaning and negative for the post-weaning datasets but negative with helminth eggs counts for the pre-weaning dataset and slightly positive for the post-weaning dataset. Genetic correlations between tick and helminth eggs counts were moderate and positive for both datasets. Phenotypic correlations of IBK incidence with helminth eggs per gram of faeces were moderate and positive for both datasets, but were close to zero for both datasets with tick counts. Conclusions: Our results suggest that genetic selection against IBK incidence in tropical cattle is feasible and that calves genetically prone to acquire IBK infection could also be genetically prone to have a slower growth. The positive genetic correlations among weight traits and between tick and helminth eggs counts suggest that they are controlled by common genes (with pleiotropic effects). Genetic correlations between IBK incidence and tick and helminth egg counts were moderate and opposite between pre-weaning and post-weaning datasets, suggesting that the environmental and (or) maternal effects differ between these two growth phases. This preliminary study provides estimated genetic parameters for IBK incidence, which could be used to design selection and breeding programs for tropical adaptation in beef cattle.