Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

April 2005


Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2005. 83:1247–1261.


The objective of this study was to characterize genetic and environmental factors influencing bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in beef cattle. Records from nine purebred and three composite breeds and a variety of F1 and three-way crosses, including the progeny of 12 additional different sire breeds produced over a 20-yr period (1983 to 2002), were evaluated for breed and heterozygosity effects on the observed incidence of BRD. Heterozygosity fractions for calves and dams were defined by generalized breed origins: British, Continental, and tropically adapted. Variance components were estimated for each pure and composite breed, and across all breeds and crossbreeds. The effect of incidence of observed BRD was determined by comparing groups of low and high years of incidence. Respiratory disease in this herd followed a standard epidemiological pattern of initial introduction, reaching an epidemic stage at 70 to 170 d of age, followed by a period of rapid decrease to weaning. Estimates of heritability of incidence of BRD were low, ranging from 0.00 to 0.26, with overall estimates of 0.07 and 0.19 depending on the data set analyzed. The highest incidence of BRD in preweaned calves occurred in the Braunvieh breed (18.8%). The genetic correlation between the direct and maternal genetic effects was generally large and negative, suggesting dams genetically superior for resisting BRD raise calves that are more susceptible. Perhaps maternally superior dams provide passive immunity to their calves, which delays the development of the calves’ direct immune system, making them more prone to BRD during the preweaning period. Heterozygosity of calves decreased the incidence of BRD compared with purebred cattle. Calves that were Continental × British or tropically adapted × British breeds had a lower incidence of BRD than did calves of British × British breeds. As the annual incidence of BRD increased, there was an associated increase in the heritability estimate. The estimated heritability based on an underlying continuous scale was large (h2 = 0.48), inferring response to selection for BRD resistance could be large if the phenotype for BRD resistance was known.