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1.  Prevalence of congenital hereditary sensorineural deafness in Australian Cattle Dogs and associations with coat characteristics and sex 
Congenital hereditary sensorineural deafness (CHSD) occurs in many dog breeds, including Australian Cattle Dogs. In some breeds, CHSD is associated with a lack of cochlear melanocytes in the stria vascularis, certain coat characteristics, and potentially, abnormalities in neuroepithelial pigment production. This study investigates phenotypic markers for CHSD in 899 Australian Cattle Dogs.
Auditory function was tested in 899 Australian Cattle Dogs in family groups using brainstem auditory evoked response testing. Coat colour and patterns, facial and body markings, gender and parental hearing status were recorded.
Deafness prevalence among all 899 dogs was 10.8% with 7.5% unilaterally deaf, and 3.3% bilaterally deaf, and amongst pups from completely tested litters (n = 696) was 11.1%, with 7.5% unilaterally deaf, and 3.6% bilaterally deaf.
Univariable and multivariable analyses revealed a negative association between deafness and bilateral facial masks (odds ratio 0.2; P ≤ 0.001). Using multivariable logistic animal modelling, the risk of deafness was lower in dogs with pigmented body spots (odds ratio 0.4; P = 0.050).
No significant associations were found between deafness and coat colour.
Within unilaterally deaf dogs with unilateral facial masks, no association was observed between the side of deafness and side of mask. The side of unilateral deafness was not significantly clustered amongst unilaterally deaf dogs from the same litter. Females were at increased risk of deafness (odds ratio from a logistic animal model 1.9; P = 0.034) after adjusting for any confounding by mask type and pigmented body spots.
Australian Cattle Dogs suffer from CHSD, and this disease is more common in dogs with mask-free faces, and in those without pigmented body patches. In unilaterally deaf dogs with unilateral masks, the lack of observed association between side of deafness and side of mask suggests that if CHSD is due to defects in molecular pigment pathways, the molecular control of embryonic melanoblast migration from ectoderm to skin differs from control of migration from ectoderm to cochlea. In Australian Cattle Dogs, CHSD may be more common in females.
PMCID: PMC3489614  PMID: 23107143
2.  A practical approach for minimising inbreeding and maximising genetic gain in dairy cattle 
A method that predicts the genetic composition and inbreeding (F) of the future dairy cow population using information on the current cow population, semen use and progeny test bulls is described. This is combined with information on genetic merit of bulls to compare bull selection methods that minimise F and maximise breeding value for profit (called APR in Australia). The genetic composition of the future cow population of Australian Holstein-Friesian (HF) and Jersey up to 6 years into the future was predicted. F in Australian HF and Jersey breeds is likely to increase by about 0.002 and 0.003 per year between 2002 and 2008, respectively. A comparison of bull selection methods showed that a method that selects the best bull from all available bulls for each current or future cow, based on its calf's APR minus F depression, is better than bull selection methods based on APR alone, APR adjusted for mean F of prospective progeny after random mating and mean APR adjusted for the relationship between the selected bulls. This method reduced F of prospective progeny by about a third to a half compared to the other methods when bulls are mated to current and future cows that will be available 5 to 6 years from now. The method also reduced the relationship between the bulls selected to nearly the same extent as the method that is aimed at maximising genetic gain adjusted for the relationship between bulls. The method achieves this because cows with different pedigree exist in the population and the method selects relatively unrelated bulls to mate to these different cows. Selecting the best bull for each current or future cow so that the calf's genetic merit minus F depression is maximised can slow the rate of increase in F in the population.
PMCID: PMC2682817  PMID: 17612478
inbreeding; dairy cattle; bull selection methods; genetic merit

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