Myostatin genes explained at Aberdeen Angus AGM

Guest speaker Dr Cahir McAuley BVMS MRCVS receives a token of appreciation from NI Aberdeen Angus Club secretary Cathy O'Hara. Picture: Julie Hazelton
Guest speaker Dr Cahir McAuley BVMS MRCVS receives a token of appreciation from NI Aberdeen Angus Club secretary Cathy O'Hara. Picture: Julie Hazelton

The Northern Ireland Aberdeen Angus Club held its AGM recently in Dungannon.

Chairman Alan Morrison welcomed everyone, and introduced the guest speaker Dr Cahir McAuley BVMS MRCVS from the Firmount Veterinary Clinic in Antrim.

Outgoing treasurer Ruth Strain outlined the club’s financial affairs, while secretary Cathy O’Hara gave a resume of its many activities during her first year in office. Highlights of the year included the four-day Balmoral Show, the hotly contested herds competition, and the charity BBQ and auction which raised £2,300 for Air Ambulance Northern Ireland. Members also enjoyed a number of successful shows and sales, the YDP Workshop, a stockjudging event at the Wallace family’s Baronagh Herd, and a trip to the West Moreland County Show and herd visits.

Cathy O’Hara ended her report by saying: “Our annual calf show attracted a good entry of quality calves, and we are ending the year on a high note following a successful February show and sale at Dungannon. Prices topped at 4,500gns, and the sale average was up on previous sales.”

During the Chairman’s Report Alan Morrison thanked the office bearers and committee members for their support during what he described as a ‘productive’ year.

He announced that six provincial shows have been selected to host the Ulster Championships in the coming years.

“The 2019 event will be held at Antrim Show, and we are also planning to host a Summer Show Spectacular at this year’s Clogher Valley Show. Schedules will be available in due course, and the Summer Spectacular will boast a generous prize fund and a selection of championships,” he said.

The club’s Events Programme for 2019/20, sponsored by Fane Valley Stores, was unveiled at the AGM. It features a host of club events, the first of which is a grooming and showing skills workshop at Alan and Lana Cheney’s Lana Herd, Trillick, County Tyrone, on Saturday 30th March at noon.

The election of office bearers was conducted by club member Leo Cherry from Cookstown. Mr Cherry congratulated the outgoing team on another successful year. “The club had an action-packed year with 21 various activities and events. These things don’t just happen, so well done to everyone involved.”

County Fermanagh herd owner Alan Morrison from Maguiresbridge was re-elected as chairman, while Stephen Wallace, Garvagh, was unanimously returned as vice-chairman. Cathy O’Hara retains her position as secretary.

Members newly elected to the committee include Ruth Strain, Gail Matchett, John Blackburn, and the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society’s vice president Alan Cheney.

A number of trophies and awards were presented to members to mark their successes at the various summer shows during 2018. Recipients included Moses Irwin, Adrian and Graeme Parke, the Matchett Family, W and V Vogan and James Porter.

The club also presented prizes to Youth Development Programme finalists Sam Matchett and Andrew Hamill.

Members attending the AGM were entered into a free prize draw to win semen from Aberdeen Angus bulls Rawburn Fastball and Netherton Matrix. The prizes were sponsored by Norbreck Genetics and the winners were Gerard McPeake, James Mallon and Alan Cheney.

Following the formal AGM proceedings Alan Morrison introduced guest speaker, veterinary surgeon Dr Cahir McAuley, whose presentation was entitled ‘Myostatins and the Double Muscled Condition in Cattle’.

A pedigree Limousin breeder, Dr McAuley is a director in the Firmount Veterinary Clinic. He explained that the Myostatin gene is a hormone that directs muscle to stop growing. “It is common in lots of species, including Beltex sheep and Pietrin pigs, but when the mutation malfunctions it results in double muscling, also known as the culard condition.

“In Aberdeen Angus cattle Nt821 is a disruptive mutation of the Myostatin gene. It is the breed’s most common gene, and is also found in Galloway, Piedmontese and Limousin cattle.

“There are six myostatin mutations, including Q204 found in Charolais, and F94L predominately found in Limousins. The Aberdeen Angus Society has identified F94L in a small number of animals.”

Dr McAuley continued: “Research is ongoing in ROI, but approximately one third of all beef calves born in Northern Ireland are bred from a sire carrying the double muscle gene.”

Cattle carrying two copies of the broken Nt821 gene will produce very muscular progeny.

Myostatin testing started in 1996, and while the presence of myostatin gene mutations has advantages such as improved feed efficiency, higher kill out percentages, and the enhanced tenderness of beef with a reduction in fat, it has also been associated with numerous disadvantages for cattle breeders.

The disadvantages of double muscling include foetal size, resulting in enlarged muscular conformation and difficult calvings.

Calves can be born with over developed or enlarged tongues, and there is an increased incidence of contracted tendons. They will also have less resistance to diseases such as pneumonia, and will be intolerant to exercise, and more at risk of developing fractured limbs.

Cows may also have compromised fertility, a smaller pelvic area, and less milk. Bulls will have a smaller scrotal circumference, and be prone to fractured limbs.

Concluding Dr McAuley said: “Knowledge is power! Myostatin testing carries many benefits which will allow pedigree breeders to make tactical and informed breeding decisions.”