KANSAS CITY, Mo. ­­­— An educational conference for youth on genomic and genetic improvement tools was held June 23-26 in Nebraska. The conference was titled the Young Leaders Conference at the 2012 National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle and the Weight Trait Project, and it was designed for young beef industry leaders. Two representatives from the Hereford breed –Lauren Schiermiester, Buffalo, Wyo., and Bridget Beran, Claflin, Kan. – were invited to attend.

The event was hosted by University of Nebraska at Lincoln Animal Science Department Professor and Extension Specialist Matt Spangler along with Kansas State University Animal Science Professor and Extension Specialist Bob Weaber.

Weaber explained the conference’s purpose was to “provide educational programming to young leaders from U.S. breeds on the improvement of feed efficiency and use of genomic tools for selection of beef cattle. Also to provide opportunities for the young leaders to interact with project collaborating producers, project and USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) scientists and allied industry personnel.”

The three-day conference kicked off with a University of Nebraska at Lincoln animal science department tour followed by a tour of the GeneSeek Inc. labs in Lincoln.

Beran said this last tour was especially exciting for her because GeneSeek Inc. is the new DNA lab for the American Hereford Association. “We were given an in-depth tour and explanation of the DNA collection and testing process. It’s amazing all the knowledge we can now gather from one little hair follicle.”

The rest of the conference was held at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (US-MARC) at Clay Center. Attendees learned about marker-assisted expected progeny differences (EPDs), reduced cost genotyping strategies, SNP panels, MBV (molecular breeding value) accuracy, efficacy of HD (high density) panel, deletion impacting fertility and genomics relating to feed efficiency.

Schiermiester said, “I learned just how important genomics will be in the future of animal breeding and how far we have come regarding the molecular research and data.  Genomics and upcoming DNA technologies will play a role in selection and breed improvement and also increase accuracies of EPDs within the livestock industry.”

The educational programs were presented by leading academia and professionals in the genomics field. Beran said, “We had the opportunity to speak with and get to know genomic professors and researchers from around the country. I had several people ask me to keep them in mind for graduate school, never mind that I will only be a freshman. It was a fantastic networking opportunity.”

The conference wrapped up with a tour of the US-MARC complex, which Beran described as “a sprawling facility where they conduct research projects while still maintaining production. It was amazing to see the expanse of the facility.”