Host resilience (HR) to parasites can affect growth in pastured raised cattle. This study is a detailed investigation of the genetic mechanisms of HR to ticks (TICK), gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN), and Eimeria spp. (EIM) under natural infestation. HR was defined as the slope coefficient of random regression models of body weight (BW) when TICK, GIN, and EIM burdens were used as environmental gradients. The BW was evaluated in five measurement events (ME): when animals were 331, 385, 443, 498, and 555 days old on average. 7307 BW records were available from 1712 animals weighted at least in one ME. Out of those, 1075 animals had valid genotypic information after quality control analysis that were used in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and GWAS meta-analyses to identify genomic regions associated with HR.
Both the genetic correlations between intercept and HR to each parasite, and the genetic correlations between BW measured in animals submitted to different parasite burden indicated that there was genotype x parasite burden interaction for BW, and selection for BW under environment with controlled parasite burden might be an efficient strategy to improve both, BW and HR. Furthermore, there was no impact of age of measurement on genetic variance estimates for HR to different parasites. However, genetic correlation between HR to the same parasite measured in different ages ranged from low to moderate in magnitude, with a posteriori means (high posterior density interval with 90% of samples) varying from 0.13 (-0.05; 0.35) to 0.40 (0.15; 0.63) for TICK, from 0.11 (-0.06; 0.29) to 0.52 (0.37; 0.67) for GIN and from 0.25 (0.07; 0.43) to 0.56 (0.34; 0.77) for EIM.
These results indicate the importance of age of measurement in studies on HR. HR to GIN and EIM can be used as a complementary tool to parasitic control management, and a multiple trait selection method that combine BW and HR to parasites should be used in parasitic endemic areas to avoid economic losses due parasitic diseases.