Genetic selection of cattle for improved immunity and health

Jpn J Vet Res. 2015 Feb;63 Suppl 1:S37-44.


The immune system is a sensing structure composed of tissues and molecules that are well integrated with the neuroendocrine system. This integrate system ensures non-self from self-discrimination. In this capacity the immune system provides detection and protection from a wide range of pathogens. In mammals, the immune system is regulated by several thousand genes (8-9% of the genome) which indicate its high genetic priority as a critical fitness trait providing survival of the species. Identifying and selectively breeding livestock with the inherent ability to make superior immune responses can reduce disease occurrence, improve milk quality and increase farm profitability. Healthier animals also may be expected to demonstrate improvements in other traits, including reproductive fitness. Using the University of Guelph's patented High Immune Response technology it is possible to classify animals as high, average, or low responders based on their genetic estimated breeding value for immune responsiveness. High responders have the inherent ability to produce more balanced and robust immune responses compared with average or low responders. High responders dairy cattle essentially have about one-half the disease occurrence of low responders, and can pass their superior immune response genes on to future generations thereby accumulating health benefits within the dairy herd.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / genetics*
  • Cattle Diseases / immunology
  • Dairying
  • Reproduction / immunology
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Selection, Genetic*