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$2.6 million grant will help vets fight deadly disease in beef and dairy cattle

UC Davis News Service

A UC Davis research team has been awarded $2.6 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to carry out research aimed at reducing the incidence of bovine respiratory disease, including pneumonia, the leading cause of death in beef and dairy calves.

The funding comes as part of a 5-year, $9.2 million USDA Coordinated Agricultural Project, which involves collaborators at UC Davis, Texas A&M University, Washington State University, University of Missouri, Colorado State University and New Mexico State University. The project is led by James Womack, the W.P. Luse endowed and distinguished professor at Texas A&M.

The Extension component of the project will be headed by Alison Van Eenennaam, Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science.
She will be leading the project's Extension component, which will include a range of outreach activities and educational materials related to best management practices for beef and dairy cattle BRD control and prevention.

Other UC Davis researchers:

Cassandra Tucker, an assistant professor of animal behavior in the Department of Animal Science and an expert in cattle welfare, will conduct a case-control study evaluate the effect of pain-controlling medication on the signs and behavior of cattle with and without BRD. This work is a collaboration with Laurel Gershwin, PhD student Rachel Toaff-Rosenstein, and Scottish Agricultural College's Adroaldo Zanella.

Terry Lehenbauer, associate director of food systems at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, will be leading a project at a local calf ranch for discovering the genetic components for BRD resistance and the interaction of pathogens and other factors that influence the risk of disease in young Holstein calves prior to weaning. He will also manage a case-control study to distinguish genetic differences in calves with and without clinical BRD caused by common viral and bacterial pathogens. 

Laurel Gershwin, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, will be working this summer with seven different agents of bovine respiratory disease as part of the project.

The Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center also received funding from this grant for training a new veterinary graduate, Jessica Davis (University of Georgia, 2011), who is interested in dairy cattle herd health. Davis will enter a 12-month internship program in July to gain knowledge and clinical experience about BRD; she will learn to develop skills in multidisciplinary, integrated research pertaining to this project.

Bovine respiratory disease annually results in the death of more than 1 million animals and the loss of $692 million.

The ultimate goals of the newly funded research project are to integrate research, education and Extension activities to improve diagnostics and develop cost-effective genomic and management approaches to reduce the incidence of the disease in beef and dairy cattle. 

Contact: Patricia Bailey, News Service, 530-752-9843,