Coat Color Testing – What is the Wild Type coat color allele?

By Dr. Jackie Atkins

Most of us have a good understanding of the two most common coat color alleles ~ the red and the black versions. Black is dominant to red so red cattle must have two red alleles and black cattle can either have two black alleles (homozygous) or can carry a red allele (heterozygous). Wild Type is a third option for the primary coat color gene (called the extension gene). The Wild Type allele is less common in our population of cattle and other genes can affect the coat color display. Because of its rarity and complexity with gene interactions, exactly how the Wild Type allele works is uncertain. Some report that the Wild Type allele is intermediate in dominance to the black and red alleles. Others report the wild type allele will be neutral to the red or the black alleles. This means, the coat color of a wild type carrier will be red if the second gene is red ~ or black if the second gene is black. A Simmental homozygous for the Wild Type allele will likely be brownish red or brownish black with darker areas around the muzzle, ear tufts, and tail switches.

To join in on the conversation or ask specific questions you may have about the wild type gene, visit the Science Forum, select DNA Testing, What is the Wild Type coat color allelle? If you haven’t checked out the Science Forum yet, hop on over and browse through it today. Here’s a list of the current DNA topics that have been posted so far.

Science Forum DNA Topics


Understanding TraitTrac and ASA Monitoring of Genetic Defects

ASA’s monitoring system was set up to track animals known to be a carrier of a genetic defect and to track animals with a higher than normal possibility of being a carrier of a genetic defect.

The ASA TraitTrac system maintains information on:

1. Animals that have been tested for a genetic defect(s).

2. Descendents of animals that have been tested as a carrier.

3. Animals and descendants of animals from an “at risk” population for a monitored genetic defect.

If an animal has no TraitTrac information available it simply means:

1.  ASA has no record of any genetic defect tests for the animal.

2.  There is no record of an ancestor who is a carrier of a monitored genetic defect.

3. The animal is not in the “at risk” population for a monitored genetic defect.

Note: If an animal has no TraitTrac information we certainly are NOT saying the animal is free and clear of all genetic defects we monitor.  The only way to know for sure is to test the animal for genetic defects.
ASA no longer uses a color coding system as a part of TraitTrac, please click here to read more about the updated TraitTrac system and what to look for on an online animal record.
If you have any questions on TraitTrac or your specific animal, please email or call our office at 406.587.4531.

Calving Season is Here – How to Report Abnormal Calves

From Dr. Jackie Atkins

With calving season upon us, I am sure we will hear reports of abnormal calves. While we hope this is not your fate, the odds are some of our members will see something unusual. Many of these cases turn out to be environmental but it is important to report any odd calves to the ASA or another breed association.If it’s the middle of the night and you aren’t sure what samples to collect, start with these:

1. Take pictures or video of the calf showing the abnormality.

2. Collect DNA on the calf. If the calf is dead, you can harvest an ear and put it in the freezer (labelled in a bag) until you hear further instructions. If the calf is alive, a blood sample is best but will need to be sent soon. Whole blood can be used – either on a blood card or a purple top tube. Hair does not work for DNA on young calves.

3. Collect DNA from the parents if they weren’t previously collected. This can be hair, blood, or semen.

You can send questions to or call 573-239-2436.