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Selection Decisions Committee

Use Of BovineSNP50 To Select For Feed Efficiency

by Barb Baylor Anderson for Angus Productions Inc.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 30, 2010) — While the beef industry has made strides in improving genetic merit for economically relevant traits (ERTs) like calving ease, growth and carcass quality, little work has been done on production inputs, including feed inputs, that can have a significant influence on profitability. Megan Rolf, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri, shared promising research on the topic June 30 during the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) "Gateway to Profit" conference.

"Much improvement has been made possible with expected progeny differences (EPDs)," she says. "Feed efficiency is a trait with enormous economic importance, but selection for efficiency has remained elusive. We looked at average feed intake (AFI), average daily gain (ADG) and residual feed intake (RFI), but it is difficult and expensive to gather phenotypic data."

Since the past few years have led to a rapid increase in the use of molecular genetic technologies in beef cattle, including single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers, Rolf set up three research objectives; to explore genomic relationships for feed efficiency, to develop diagnostic tests for feed efficiency and to evaluate novel uses for existing feed data.

"Genomic selection methods are exceptionally valuable for traits that are difficult and expensive to measure (such as RFI)," she says. "Large panels of SNPs are available and animals have been genotyped, so the best use of such data will likely be in the form of genomic selection, where marker information is used with genetic prediction and EPDs."

Rolf performed a number of analyses involving diagnostic tests for feed efficiency and use of existing feed data, which are detailed in her proceedings from the conference. She found that incorporation of feed intake data with genetic evaluation has the potential to dramatically influence selection on maintenance efficiency. Genomic selection has the potential to make the most of limited data for genetic prediction on a large number of animals using either large marker panels or smaller panels of markers, such as the BovineSNP50, associated with ERTs.

"A large number of SNPs were identified that could be included in commercial marker panels for use in Angus cattle for selection on feed efficiency traits," she confirms. "These models account for large amounts of genetic or phenotypic variation in these populations, and may be the first work to examine the use of a predicted feed efficiency phenotype in a genome wide association analysis that compares model predictions to observed phenotypic records in beef cattle."

Rolf concludes that additional comparisons using actual feed intake data, gain and RFI in studies with larger numbers of animals and larger heritabilities is essential to further explore the use of these data for genetic evaluation and selection decisions in commercial cattle populations.

Rolf spoke during the Selection Decisions Committee break-out session at the 2010 BIF symposium. Themed "Gateway to Profit," the 42nd annual research symposium and annual meeting was hosted by BIF June 28-July 1 in Columbia, Mo.

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.

API's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship by BioZyme Inc. through its significant gift to the Angus Foundation. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus e-List, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the API Virtual Library.

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