Help find genetic defect in calves

    Holstein Association and the National Association of Animal Breeders say they urgently need help in identifying calves that appear to be affected by brachyspina syndrome, a genetic defect.  They are asking dairy producers, AI companies and veterinarians to contact the Holstein Association or Dr. David Steffen at the Veterinary Diagnostics Center, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL),  before destroying the calf.
      Brachyspina syndrome was first described in 2006 by Danish researchers at the University of Copenhagen. It’s a genetic defect in cattle that causes abortion in .16% of pregnant cattle. In rare cases, gestation length is normal, but the calf is stillborn.  Those calves have physical defects like a shortened spinal cord, long legs and abnormal organs.
    Brachyspina syndrome is reported to share similarities with CVM (complex vertebral malformation) but does not share the gene mutation associated with CVM.  Calves affected with brachyspina syndrome differ from CVM as follows:

     • Their body weight is smaller 23 pounds (10.3 kg) compared to 55 pounds (25 kg) for CVM0-affected calves.
 • Vertebral lesions/malformations are more widespread and severe resulting in an overall reduction in spine length.
•  Renal dysplasia is present in brachyspina syndrome but not in CVM cases.
• There may be a slightly longer gestation period with brachyspina syndrome.
• Different common ancestor.
Researchers are working to identify the gene/mutation associated with the defect. To contact Steffen, call 402-472-1434. For genetic  research purposes, the entire calf, along with a blood sample from the dam of the affected calf, should be sent to the UNL Veterinary Diagnostic Center.

For more information contact:

 Holstein Association USA, Inc.

P.O. Box 808,  1 Holstein Place
 Brattleboro, VT 05302-0808
800-952-5200 ext.4225                                


National Association of Animal Breeders
P. O. Box 1033
Columbia, MO 65205