|By SARAH B. AUBREY
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In late November 2006, researcher, university professor and cattleman Dr. John Beever and his team succeeded in finalizing a test for PHA and to date several hundred beef animals have been tested. Testing determines if an animal is a carrier of the disorder or is free from the genetic defect or “clean.”
“Once we got the word out that we needed breeders to help and a significant number of calves to test, samples came in from breeders everywhere,” said Beever. “Now we have a huge list of potential sires of PHA carrier calves.”
PHA-affected calves are normal size at first but have lung and heart defects such as pulmonary hypertension and underdeveloped respiratory systems. The calf’s heart does not pump blood properly, thus the blood backs up in the heart and causes severe edema (or fluid retention).
Then the excess fluid seeps into the calf’s skin and causes extreme swelling, often making the calves grow large and appear bloated. Calves with PHA are often born early, and yet can weigh as much as 250 pounds, putting the cow at grave risk.
The disorder has been found to originate in the Maine Anjou breed.
It is not the same as Tibial Hemophilia, or TH, that has manifested in the Shorthorn breed.
The two disorders can be seen together in some pedigrees as breeders often use both Maine and Shorthorn genetics in the herd or to produce crossbreds.
Beever said that he has received numerous samples in the form of blood, semen, or live sp