Blood test boost for dairy industry

Published Tuesday, 18th September 2018 in Research news

Blood test could aid cattle health and productivity, study suggests
The test is set to benefit the dairy industry and improve animal welfare

A simple blood test could be used to predict the future health and productivity of dairy cows, research shows.

Testing female calves for molecules in the blood – called microRNAs – could help predict their likelihood of developing disease, scientists say.

Scientists from Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have found that the blood levels of certain microRNAs change dramatically during the early life of cows.

Some of these blood molecules are closely associated with diseases such as lameness and mastitis – inflammation of the udders – as well as with milk production.

By studying blood samples taken from cows from the Langhill lines at the SRUC research herd, researchers at SRUC and the Roslin Institute  say a procedure to identify calves that are likely to have problems later in life benefits the dairy industry and improves animal welfare.

Levels of microRNA can be easily analysed in lab tests, and used to assess changes in tissue function. This approach is already being applied to disease diagnosis in humans. 

In UK dairy herds, up to one-third of cows are affected by disease or reproductive failure. This incurs costs to farmers.

The research was funded by SRUC and published in Scientific Reports.

Professor Georgios Banos of the SRUC said: “This work was funded by SRUC as a strategic topic of priority. We are investing in scientific research on the development of practical solutions for the improvement of livestock and farm practices. We are already designing collaborative follow-up projects and we look forward to new exciting outcomes.”

Dr Xavier Donadeu, of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, added: “As shown in previous studies, these results demonstrate that blood testing for microRNAs may be very useful as diagnostic tools in dairy cows and potentially other livestock species.

“They could allow for early selection of the healthiest animals in a herd in order to aid productivity and animal wellbeing.”

To read the paper, click here.

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