Genetic Conditions

To maintain Angus breed integrity in Canada, and to assist our members with their mating decisions, the Canadian Angus Association identifies animals that have been tested for genetic conditions and reports the subsequent results of this testing. It is good ethical practice to disclose full pedigree information to potential buyers of an animal. Test results are printed on registration certificates and we encourage breeders to report all carriers in sale catalogues.

AI sires and Donor dams that have a known carrier of any genetic condition, for which there is a DNA test available commercially, within the first two (2) generations of their pedigree are required to be tested prior to registration of calves.

Per the Canadian Angus Association Genetic Condition Policy (effective September 22, 2013, revised January 27, 2020) the Canadian Angus Association acknowledges and seeks to identify carriers of the following genetic conditions:

    • Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM)
      • What is AM?

        Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM)

        This is a lethal defect caused by a recessive gene. Affected calves have a bent and twisted spine. The calves are small and very thin due to limited muscle development. Their legs are often rigid and may be hyper-extended. In some cases, this causes calving difficulties.

      • AM Carrier animals  AM Tested Free Animals
      • Click here to request a test
    • Neuropathic Hydrocephalous (NH)
      • What is NH?

        Neuropathic Hydrocephalous (NH)

        NH is a recessively inherited defect that causes excess fluid retention in the brain. The calves are born near term and have 25–35 pound birth weights. The cranium is markedly enlarged (volleyball to basketball sized). The bones of the skull are malformed. The cranial cavity is filled with fluid and no recognizable brain tissue is evident. The spinal canal is also dilated

      •  NH Carrier animals  NH Tested Free Animals
      •  Click here to request a test
    • Osteopetrosis (OS)
      • What is OS?

        Osteopetrosis (OS)

        Affected calves of this lethal, recessively inherited defect are typically born premature and dead. The affected calves have a severely compacted jaw and brittle bones.

      • OS Carrier animals  OS Tested Free Animals
      • Click here to request a test
    • Contractural Arachnodactyly (CA)
      What is CA?

      Contractural Arachnodactyly (CA) (fawn calf syndrome)

      Contractural Arachnoloactyly(CA) is a non-lethal condition wherein calves are normally born alive and most can walk, suckle and survive. The birth weight of affected calves is normal. The phenotype is subtle and hence CA may not initially be recognized as an inherited defect. Affected calves at birth assume an abnormal crouched posture resembling an elk or deer fawn. In their first days of life, affected calves are also flat down on their pasterns. Although there is a reduced range of movement in the upper limb joints, particularly the hip, stifle and hock, there is an increased extensibility of the lower limb joints, particularly the pasterns. CA affected calves are reported as taller and more slender than their unaffected siblings.

      Australian researchers assert that the inability to passively extend the hip, stifle and hock joints to the normal extent by pulling downwards on the foot of a newborn calf—while it is held on its side on the ground—is a valuable diagnostic sign in CA cases.

      Affected calves can show significant recovery and usually appear relatively normal by 4 to 6 months of age. As weanlings and yearlings, CA affected calves appear lighter framed and lighter muscled, particularly in the hindquarters. Most perform poorly and remain tall, slender animals with poor foot conformation. The more normal appearance of CA cases as mature adults makes early evaluation of the phenotype essential. Australian researchers have also reported the early onset of degenerative arthritis in cows that were CA-affected as calves, particularly in the stifle joints

      CA Carrier animals CA Tested Free Animals
      Click here to request a test
    • Mannosidosis (MA)
      What is MA?

      Mannosidosis (MA)

      The Condition

      Alpha Mannosidosis (MA) is an inherited condition in beef cattle that affects the nervous system. In affected animals the Alpha Mannosidosis enzyme does not work optimally to break down sugars in lysosomes causing a buildup of sugars and deterioration of the central nervous system. Like AM, NH and OS this condition is fatal, however, symptoms do not normally develop until the animal reaches sexual maturity. At about yearling age affected animals develop head tremors, loss of muscle control and difficulty walking, aggression issues, failure to thrive, and ultimately die.

      The History

      MA is one of the oldest genetic defects known in beef cattle. The Australian Angus Association undertook an aggressive endeavor to eradicate the gene from their herdbook in the 1980s after several Australian calves were diagnosed with MA. Much of what we know about MA today is a result of their research and efforts. Calves affected by MA have been documented in several countries including Scotland and America, and in several different beef breeds including Aberdeen Angus, Galloway and Murray Grey.

      The Genetics

      Similar to AM, NH and OS, the gene that causes Alpha Mannosidosis (MA) is a recessive gene, requiring two carrier parents to be bred before an affected calf is ever seen. To date there have been no reports of an affected calf in Canada. The frequency of the recessive gene in the Canadian herdbook is minimal. However, carrier animals, which look normal, can still pass on the gene to future generations. A DNA test has been validated in North America so that these carrier animals can be identified.

      MA Carrier animals MA Tested Free Animals
      Click here to request a test

The Canadian Angus Association also monitors the following genetic conditions:

    • Double Muscling (DM)
      • What is DM?

        Double Muscling (DM)

        This is not a lethal defect. Affected calves are born, after lengthened gestation periods, with high birth weights, and large prominent muscling. They have little fat and very fine bone structures.

      • DM Carrier animals  DM Tested Free Animals
      • Click here to request a test
    • Dwarfism (DW)
      • What is DW?

        Dwarfism (DW)

        There are several types of dwarfism in the Angus breed. Dwarf calves are typically born with very short legs and a stout fat body. A test is available for the D2 mutation of Dwarfism. Please contact the office for information and to arrange testing.

      •  DW Carrier animals  DW Tested Free Animals
    • Developmental Duplication (DD)
      • What is DD?

        Developmental Duplication (DD)

        The Angus Society of Australia, with the assistance of Dr. Jonathan Beever (Professor, Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois), has been investigating the cause of calves born with extra limbs/heads (polymelia) since 2011. This research has led to a newly identified recessive genetic condition called Developmental Duplication or DD. Dr. Beever has identified the genetic mutation that causes this syndrome in beef cattle and developed a DNA test to help identify carrier animals and avoid affected calves. To date, only 20 affected calves have been reported. From low occurrence of affected calves and the higher probable frequency of the mutation in the Angus populations, Dr. Beever concludes that in most instances the cow suffers early abortion and the chance of seeing affected calves is low. The most common result is open cows because of embryonic loss with the less common result being calves born with more than four limbs and/or one head. As both of these results impact producer profitability, a DNA test is now available as a tool to identify carrier animals so that cattlemen might avoid breeding them. Please be aware that similar cases have been reported in other beef breeds, both Bos Taurus and Indicus; this is not an Angus-specific issue.

        Although the impact of this mutation will be much lower in the Canadian Angus population than the American and Australian Angus populations, the Canadian Angus Association Board of Directors takes anything that can affect member profitability seriously. The Board of Directors will consider the implications of this genetic condition and the best interest of the breed and members and will advise our membership on the approach that will be taken. AI companies are already working with Dr. Beever to ensure that genetics currently being marketed are tested.

        Scientific advances in the field of genetics, our membership’s ability to manage such conditions and the likelihood that the scientific community will continue to identify additional genetic conditions in all breeds in the future are some of the factors that the Board will consider. We will keep you advised on the Board's approach as it occurs.

        Dr. Beever has tested 1,099 Angus bulls at the University of Illinois. The list of tested animals with a Canadian Herd Book impact is linked below. At this point, only Black Angus cattle have been tested.

      • DD Carrier animals  DD Tested Free Animals
      • Click here to request a test
    • Heterochromia Irides/Oculocutaneous Hypopigmentation (HI/OH)
      • What is HI/OH?

        Heterochromia Irides (HI) — White Eye

        Rare ocular pigmentation abnormality, often called “white eye”. There is a grey-silver or white/blue ring observed around the iris of affected animals.

        Oculocutaneous Hypopigmentation (OH)

        Oculocutaneous Hypopigmentation (OH) presents very similarly to the already monitored genetic condition Heterochromia Irides (HI) or White Eye which was identified in beef cattle in the 1980s. Cattle affected by HI and OH have eyes with irises that are pale blue around the pupil with a tan periphery. In some beef breeds their hair coats have a slightly bleached color. While some affected calves have sensitivity to light, they are believed to be otherwise normal functionally and physiologically. Dr. Jon Beever from the University of Illinois, has screened numerous Angus bulls for the OH mutation. Of those, only one was identified as a carrier of the mutation, Sir Wms Warrant, (AAA 9196894) born in 1978. In 1982, Warrant was identified by the American Angus Association as a carrier of Heterochromia Irides (HI) based on abnormal calves sired by him. Although they are two separate genetic mutations, OH and HI exhibit many of the same characteristics.

    • Hypotrichosis (HY)
      • What is HY?

        Hypotrichosis (HY)

        This condition causes various degrees of hairlessness, affecting Angus; Ayrshire; Brangus; Holstein-Friesian; Hereford breeds. The condition is a simply inherited recessive trait.

    • Protoporphyria (PR)
      • What is PR?

        Protoporphyria (PR)

        Animals affected with Protoporphyria (PR) are sensitive to sunlight and develop scabs and open sores when exposed to sunlight. The liver is also affected and the animals may suffer from seizures. PR is inherited as a simple recessive trait.

    • Pulmonary Hypoplasia (PH)
      • What is PH?

        Pulmonary Hypoplasia (PH)

        Affected calves are born with a large quantity of fluid retained between the body and the skin. This results in larger bodies that usually require birthing assistance. Affected calves are stillborn. There are no suspected or confirmed cases in Canada.

    • Syndactyly (SN)
      • What is SN?

        Syndactyly (SN) – Mule Foot

        Toes of the hoof are fused together in affected animals. This can range from one affected hoof to all four. This defect is not lethal.

      • SN Carrier animals
    • Tibial Hemimelia (TH)
      • What is TH?

        Tibial Hemimelia (TH)

        Tibial Hemimelia (TH) causes large abdominal hernias. This recessively inherited condition is lethal.

DNA Testing

DNA testing is available for the following genetic conditions: AM, CA, DD, DM, MA, NH, OH and OS. To request a DNA test please complete the DNA Test Request Form and return it to the office. The lab accepts either hair or semen samples. The tests cost $22 each.

 Reporting an Abnormal Calf

Members of the Canadian Angus Association are required to report abnormalities in their herds. If an abnormality is observed:

  1. Complete and submit a Calf Abnormality Report to the Canadian Angus Association office.
  2. Collect DNA samples (hair from calf, dam and sire) to keep on record for future reference.
  3. Verify parentage (DNA) of abnormal calf to both sire and dam.
  4. Collect photographs for future reference.
  5. Conduct a pedigree search for common ancestors.
  6. Complete a veterinary inspection, DNA analysis and/or pathology exam if required

If you have any questions about genetic conditions, please email or call the CAA office at 1-888-571-3580.

Canadian Angus Association

292140 Wagon Wheel Blvd,
Rocky View County, AB T4A 0E2

Tel: (403) 571-3580
Fax: (403) 571-3599
Toll Free: 1-888-571-3580
Text Line: 587-439-3440*
*Please note: this is an incoming text line only.  Responses will not be given from the same text line.

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Vision: The Canadian Angus Association exists to preserve and expand the Angus breed for Canadian cattle producers and beef consumers, providing the best opportunities for profitability today and for future generations. Mission: To maintain breed registry, breed purity and provide services that enhance the growth and position of the Angus breed.
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