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Friday General Session

Genomic Selection Is Here

Whole genome selection technology is here, University of Missouri animal genomics professor Jerry Taylor told attendees at the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) symposium in Sacramento, Calif., during the opening general session May 1. He said, “By the end of this year, beef producers in this audience are going to be buying the tests.”

Jerry Taylor, University of Missouri

Jerry Taylor, University of Missouri

During his presentation, Taylor gave an overview of the single nucleotide polymorphism, commonly referred to as SNP, technology that is making it possible for genome selection in bovines. SNPs are the DNA variants that occur and can identify the genetic variation for specifically identified traits such as growth, carcass, heifer pregnancy, feed efficiency, palatability, shear force, etc.

Presently, an assay with 50,000 SNPs has been developed, but costs more than $200 per individual animal. Because that cost is not practical for the industry, additional research and refinement has led to development of a test with 384 SNPs. Taylor explained that to develop this test, instead of using random SNPs researchers used a process they dubbed “forward selection” in which they selected specific SNPs that were most strongly associated with a trait value such as marbling.

Taylor says the resulting 384 SNP test appears more practical and affordable for the industry. “We can deliver this at a price point that makes the test worthwhile,” he said.

Taylor explained that the first tests that will be made available will be breed-specific, because they’ve found in their validation tests that when jumping between breeds, the prediction model is not accurate. Currently, Merial is working to commercialize a genomic assay for the Angus breed built from Taylor’s genomic work in Missouri and validated in commercial steers and registered Angus sires. Taylor reported that the Angus breed is working to make genomic EPDs available to cattlemen soon, as well.

As more DNA genotypes are collected for beef cattle across breeds, Taylor says across breed tests could be developed within the next couple years. Taylor says in addition to Angus, a great deal of genotype information has also been collected from the Limousin, Charolais, Hereford and Simmental breeds — and that information is being used to start developing across-breed tests.

Looking forward, Taylor emphasized to BIF attendees and leadership the importance of building a DNA repository for beef cattle breeds in the very near future. “We are going to need DNA from thousands of animals of each breed to make this work right,” he said.

Specifically, Taylor reported that the dairy industry has found that genotypes from 6,000 bulls are needed to get accuracies of about 70%. Thus, Taylor said, the beef industry will also likely need at least 6,000 animals with DNA and EPDs for each breed. He suggested that ultimately a 1-million-SNP assay is what will be needed for thorough and accurate genomic information in the beef industry.

Efforts on the table in Missouri right now would help in getting a beef breeds DNA repository effort started, but additional support is still needed from the industry to provide semen samples on AI bulls to stock such a repository.

Taylor told those in the beef industry to be thinking about what traits are really important that can be applied to this genomic technology. As examples, Taylor pointed out disease resistance and meat palatability. In closing he said now that genomic selection is here, the industry has the opportunity to produce genomic EPDs for traits such as these that were previously too expensive and difficult to predict.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). To request reprint rights contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

The 41st BIF Research Symposium and Annual Meeting was hosted by the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association and the California Cattlemen's Association. For more information, visit www.bifconference.com or www.calcattlemen.org/bif2009.html.



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