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Emerging Technologies Committee

The 2000 Sires Project at USMARC

by Troy Smith for Angus Productions Inc.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 30, 2010) — Can breeders of beef seedstock use whole-genome selection (WGS) like breeders of dairy cattle? According to U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) geneticist Larry Kuehn, genetic predictions from WGS are being used for Holstein sire selection. However, the beef industry involves more breeds and seeks to select for more economically important traits.

Larry KuehnLarry KuehnDuring the 2010 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium, Kuehn spoke before the Emerging Technologies Committee breakout. He noted how WGS uses gene markers spanning the bovine genome to predict genetic merit for a variety of traits. In contrast to single-gene or marker approaches, WGS makes a more realistic assumption that a trait is likely influenced by multiple genes, Kuehn explained. WGS research in cattle has been made feasible by the BovineSNP50 (50K) BeadChip, a technology providing genotypes on approximately 50,000 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers within the bovine genome.

“We believe that successful implementation of WGS will require a high degree of organization and broad participation by the beef cattle industry,” Kuehn stated. “To be most effective, WGS should be incorporated into the national cattle evaluation (NCE) system.”

Toward that end, USMARC scientist embarked upon the 2000 Bull Project in 2007. Genotypes were obtained on more than 2000 influential beef sires representing 16 different breeds. Many of the sires have high-accuracy expected progeny difference (EPD) values for various traits.

The selected sires were used to breed cows from USMARC’s Germplasm Evaluation Project — a population from which extensive phenotypic data had been collected. Phenotypic data, as well as genomic profiles, are being collected from resulting progeny. Preliminary results suggest positive correlations for several traits. The goal is to develop prediction equations for various traits.

“The challenge is to find markers that hold up across populations,” Kuehn said, noting inconsistencies across breeds. While there remains much work to be done, he said the process promises to provide learning experiences for breed associations.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or 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.

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