Genetic extremes could explain the uptick in bovine congestive heart failure

According to The American Simmental Association, bovine congestive heart failure is showing up more often in feedlots, and it is a real problem not discussed frequently in the industry.

Bovine congestive heart failure is showing up more often in feedlots. According to The American Simmental Association, it is a real problem that is not discussed much in the cattle industry.

“Cattlemen, in general, and probably all livestock breeders select for extremes rather than optimums, so we want to maximize the absolute number of pounds we sell at weaning time or slaughter time because that yields more dollars,” says Luke Bowman, the Director of SimGenetic Development at the American Simmental Association.

Bowman also suggests that this extreme form of genetic selection in cattle breeding is having an adverse effect on cattle outcomes.

“What we are doing is we are getting these cattle to perform like racehorses, and they absolutely outperform and grow like crazy, but are all of the rest of the organs keeping up with them?” He said. “We don’t know.”

According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) publication, Death Loss in U.S. Cattle and Calves Due to Predator and Nonpredator Causes (2015), the leading causes of bovine deaths outside of predators are respiratory problems (23.9 percent) and old age (11 percent). However, another 14 percent are attributed to “unknown causes.”

“So, if their hearts can’t keep up with all this maximum growth and fat they are putting on at the late stages of the game at the feedlot, they literally have heart attacks and die,” Bowman said.

Bowman said, sometimes external factors — like extreme weather conditions — impact the situation, but a lot of the time it is genetics.

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