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National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) Beef Development Committee

May 6, 2009

Mr. Bryce Schumann
Chief Executive Officer
American Angus Association
3201 Frederick Avenue
St. Joseph, MO 64506-2997

Dear Bryce,

On behalf of the Beef Committee of the National Association of Animal Breeders, we wish to address our concerns in regards to the current and future policies of the American Angus Association relating to the registration status of potential and known carriers of genetic defects.

The impact of the discovery of the Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM) genetic defect last fall has been felt throughout the Angus breed. In a blink of an eye, the value of lines of Angus cattle has been altered significantly.  Now, we have Neuropathic Hydrocephalus (NH) and soon to be released Fawn Calf Syndrome (FCS) to address to our breeders and customers.

With the vast improvements in DNA technology, we can all be assured that additional discoveries are waiting on the horizon. Genetic defects are not new to the Angus breed or the beef industry. The Association currently has six Genetic Defects listed on the website along with two Genetic Factors. These do not include NH or FCS. There are currently at least fourteen genetic defects being monitored by US beef breeds.

We have an obligation to utilize the science that is and will be available to us to make informed decisions to lessen the economic impact on our breed, our members and our customers. Dr. Mark Thallman, of the US Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE, said during his presentation at the 2009 BIF Convention, "Cattle known to carry genetics defects should not be considered defective. Instead, cattle in which the defects have been identified and mapped should be preferred over those in which the effects have not been identified."

Angus cattle did not change with the discovery of AM or NH. In essence, we now know more about their genetic makeup in order to make informed decisions to avoid possible economic losses. By identifying genetic defects in lines of cattle, we can make reasonable decisions to breed around them as opposed to former methods of elimination of entire lines.

Let us be clear that we are in favor of promoting the testing of all at-risk individuals and full disclosure of the results. In some ways, this is no different than encouraging breeders to submit all records on their cattle in order to accurately determine their genetic merit for the many performance traits that we measure.

We propose that the Board of Directors reconsider their current policy for recording progeny out of carriers of genetic defects. As we have previously discussed, we take exception to the rule as written in the adopted guidelines of November 15, 2008, that would eliminate the registration of all AI sired calves out of a carrier bull, regardless of the calf's status as a carrier. We feel that all bulls, whether used in natural service or AI, should be treated equally.

We propose the following policy for genetic defects.
1.       Require testing of all AI sires, natural service sires and donor dams with at-risk pedigrees for known defects.
2.       Require full disclosure of results of testing.
3.       A listing of an animal's risk for each genetic defect on his/her registration paper.
4.       Let the marketplace work to determine the value of all registered Angus cattle.

By changing the current policy, breeders with carriers in their programs can still utilize those genetics to produce non-carrier registered Angus. We acknowledge that the marketplace will determine the demand for cattle that are carriers for various genetic defects.  However, this gives all the opportunity to work through this problem in a timely manner with reduced economic loss to both the breed and breeders. 

We sincerely appreciate the amount of time and effort that the board of directors and staff of the American Angus Association have placed on developing reasonable solutions for this issue. We thank you for allowing our input and offer our assistance to you as needed. Together, we can achieve what is best for our members, our customers and the Angus breed.


Beef Committee
National Association of Animal Breeders

Don Trimmer, Jr                                                 Brian House
Director of Beef Programs                                   Beef Programs Manager
Accelerated Genetics                                         Select Sires

Doug Frank                                                       Willie Altenburg
Beef Product Manager                                        Associate Vice President Beef Marketing
ABS Global                                                       Genex