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On the Shoulders of Giants

A look at the genomics era and from whence it came.

by Troy Smith, field editor, Angus Journal®

LINCOLN, Neb. (June 18, 2014) — It is said the beef cattle industry is in the “genomics era.” The ability of cattle breeders to utilize DNA technology to enhance animal selection decisions is owed, in no small part, to the work of geneticists and biochemists at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC). So said Steve Kappes, deputy administrator for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), during the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation symposium June 18, in Lincoln, Neb.

Steve Kappes

“The greatest gains are achieved from applying the technology to selection for lowly heritable traits,” said Steve Kappes, deputy administrator for USDA's ARS.

“We are standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Kappes, during a session celebrating the 50th anniversary of USMARC.

Kappes recounted the development of genomic research, from early gene mapping to the sequencing of the bovine genome. He talked about the discovery of gene markers linked to economically relevant traits, first in dairy cattle, and how development of physical and genetic linkage maps spurred interest and funding for beef cattle genomics research and the development of genomic-enhanced expected progeny difference (EPD) values for a growing number of traits.

“Here’s the kicker,” said Kappes. “The greatest gains are achieved from applying the technology to selection for lowly heritable traits.”

Kappes said advancements in technology have allowed for genotyping of animals at dramatically reduced costs — currently less than 10¢ per genotype.

Even with the rapid advancements gained, Kappes said research has revealed only the tip of the genomics iceberg. He predicted discovery of gene markers to aid selection for a host of hard-to-measure traits related to animal health, reproduction and cow longevity.

“One of the things we need to come back to is fitting animals to their environment,” added Kappes. “Genomics will help us design a cow that better fits the resources available in her production environment.”

The 2014 BIF Annual Meeting & Research Symposium was hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and the Nebraska Cattlemen June 18-21 in Lincoln, Neb. The Angus Journal and LiveAuctions.tv provide comprehensive online coverage of the event at www.BIFconference.com. Visit the Newsroom for summaries, proceedings, PowerPoints and audio of the sessions; the Awards page for announcements of award winners; and the Photos page for galleries of photos from the meeting and the tours.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal®.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.

The Angus Journal's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship of LiveAuctions.tv. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., Angus Productions Inc. (API) publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus Journal Daily, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the Angus Journal Virtual Library.  


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