Two new projects are set to bring the agricultural industry one step closer to eradicating Bovine TB. (bTB).

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is partnering with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are using recent AHDB research which identified significant genetic variations between resistant and non-resistant dairy cattle. Together they intend to develop a national database of genetic evaluations and a new state-of-the-art genomic prediction tool. This will enable farmers to identify natural resistance traits and make informed decisions about which cattle they choose to breed, depending on their resistance to bTB.

Combatting bTB is a national priority, manifested by the £100 million spent annually on disease surveillance, monitoring and non-genetic control. If accuracies of genomic predictions were improved, genetic improvement could contribute to a long term reduction of this figure by reducing both infected and infectious animals on farm.

The first of the two projects will be in partnership with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and will focus specifically on dairy cattle. Innovate UK have granted AHDB and CIEL £360,000 of funding, which will enable them to buy the genotyping services required to genotype around 12,000 cattle.

“The additional funding provided by Innovate UK will allow a far greater number of cattle to be included in the database, ensuring greater accuracy when the improved genomic prediction tool is put into practice” says Marco Winters, Head of Animal Genetics for AHDB Dairy. He added, “This project has game-changing potential for the dairy industry and is a further demonstration of how the industry is actively using genetics, as part of wider industry initiatives, toward a sustainable livestock sector.”

The second project, which is being co-funded with Defra, will build on AHDB’s initial research on dairy genetic evaluations but instead focus specifically on beef cattle. This is a slightly more complicated project due to the number of different beef cattle breeds in comparison to dairy cattle, but could reap huge savings for livestock breeders.

Farming Minister, George Eustice MP, commented: "Bovine TB is a slow moving, insidious disease which presents many challenges. That is why we are taking strong action to deliver our 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease through tighter cattle measures, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where the disease is rife.” He added, “Reducing the risk of disease entering a farm is crucial to end the devastation of bovine TB and that is why we have chosen to support this project which has the potential to lead to reductions in its incidence.”