Developing a genetic solution to the billion-dollar horn fly problem |

ATHENS — On a heat summer time evening in the South, it’s commonplace to get a few mosquito bites — however a few of us have a tendency to get bitten extra ceaselessly than others, a results of genetic predispositions that make us extra enticing to the bugs.It’s not simply people and mosquitos whose relationship is set by genetics, but in addition cows and horn flies, in accordance Romdhane Rekaya, a professor in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Horn flies are one among the most economically detrimental pests for the cattle business, with a median of $1.8 billion in financial damages per 12 months. These small, black flies stay on the cattle nearly constantly and use their piercing chunk to draw blood, which is their solely supply of meals. In order to mitigate the ache and discomfort of those pests, cattle will swat with their tails, transfer their heads and kick at their stomach, amongst different usually unsuccessful strategies.Based in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science, Rekaya is main a cross-disciplinary staff of researchers to handle the horn fly difficulty via the growth of superior information assortment instruments and synthetic intelligence (AI) approaches.Phenotypic, physiological, behavioral and genomic data will likely be built-in via subtle AI instruments to derive the wanted response traits and to dissect their genetic foundation.Funded by a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a small business grant from the Georgia beef fee, Rekaya says he hopes UGA’s staff will likely be in a position to handle the horn fly difficulty, a problem that’s as previous as cattle themselves.“We are consultants in animal breeding and genetics — we’ve been in a position to choose for a number of traits leading to spectacular enchancment in productiveness, so why not strive to make the animal itself a a part of the solution?” Rekaya mentioned. “We are planning to harness the animal genetic potential to handle the difficulty of horn fly to enhance productiveness and to cut back the environmental influence and insecticide resistance.”With elevated horn fly numbers, cattle have a tendency to lose development effectivity as a results of lowered feed consumption and the further power expenditure concerned in tail swatting and head motion. Damaged hides and different beauty defects, in addition to lowered productiveness, may end up in decreased returns and potential losses in income for producers.Despite the damaging influence on productiveness and animal welfare, horn fly analysis has confirmed tough as a result of there’s not at present a dependable, scientifically derived estimate of the onset of the financial damage threshold at the particular person animal degree due to horn fly abundance. Without this vital data assessing the influence of horn fly abundance on productiveness, scientists are ill-equipped to devise genetic options to mitigate the problem.Horn fly abundance, the onset of financial damage threshold, and the price of decay of efficiency after onset range from animal to animal.The analysis staff contains consultants in animal science, entomology and veterinary drugs who will gather varied information factors from cattle in the research to establish which traits decide an animal’s distinctive tolerance and resistance ranges. They are additionally working to create computational instruments and assets to make automated assessments of horn fly abundance.Once up and operating, the system is predicted to have the option to obtain and course of photographs collected with cellular units utilized by producers or farm personnel. The automated system will enable researchers to estimate horn fly abundance, onset of financial damage and decay of efficiency after onset at the particular person degree — and can pave the means to establish animals with greater ranges of resistance and tolerance to horn flies.Identifying people with favorable traits will open the door for the choice of animals with greater pure tolerance and resistance to horn flies, doubtlessly decreasing business reliance on pesticides and lowering the quantity of time and cash producers have to spend money on management. Additionally, pesticides can kill the horn fly’s few pure predators, exacerbating an already damaging problem.Before Rekaya’s staff can start tackling the bigger difficulty of breeding horn fly-resistant animals, they’re planning first to work with cattle at UGA’s Eatonton Beef Research Unit at the Northwest Georgia Research and Education Center in Calhoun and the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska to develop an automatic system that might depend on digital picture options, blood enzymes, pores and skin biopsies, and physiological and behavioral parameters to estimate fly abundance, resistance and tolerance.Reliance on an automatic system will lower the effort for each producers and researchers concerned on this mission.“Modern agriculture is a high-tech science — we have now the capability to automate so many points of our work so as to lighten the load of producers,” Rekaya mentioned. “Ultimately, producers aren’t going to be out in the discipline counting the flies on their cattle. We are going to use applied sciences and synthetic intelligence to do this for them in order that they will give attention to their work in the discipline and we are able to give attention to ours in the lab.”Rekaya mentioned that this mission is an early step towards bringing elevated built-in precision agriculture efforts to animal science.For extra data on present analysis in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science, go to

Claire Sanders is the senior public relations specialist in the CAES dean and director’s workplace.

Recommended For You