Introduction to DNA testing in beef cattle

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Dr. Matt Spangler, Associate Professor and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, visited with Lynn Gordon, SDSU Extension Beef Field Specialist after his presentation at the Genomic Seedstock Symposium, held June 27-28th in Sioux Falls, SD. The event was sponsored by SDSU Extension and the SD Beef Breeds Council.

Dr. Spangler discussed the impact of DNA technology  on the beef cattle industry and current  types of testing  conducted in the study of   beef cattle genetics. “Testing is done for simple traits such as coat color, horned/polled status and recessive genetic defects, also parentage testing which not only identifies pedigree integrity in the seedstock industry but also identifies problematic sires in commercial herds,” says Spangler.

Spangler’s presentation provided a background of genomic testing development and its current implementation in the beef cattle industry. Breeds are incorporating genomic information into the accuracy of Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs). The key advantage of these genomic predictors, Spangler says, is that information can be garnered early in the life of the animal, therefore increasing the accuracy of EPD in young animals that have not yet produced progeny. However, the benefit of including genomic predictions in EPD estimates is proportional to the amount of genetic variation explained by the genomic predictor (Thallman, et al,. 2009). 

Spangler further reported that multiple breed associations have produced marker-assisted EPDs including Angus, Hereford, Red Angus, Limousin, Gelbvieh, and Simmental. For breeds that have not collected genomic information for complex traits (traits controlled by many genes), genomic information is available to producers in a more disjoined context and published separately from the EPD.

For the future Spangler predicts this technology will be adopted in the commercial cattle industry utilizing EPDs and economic index values for beef cattle selection. His prediction is based on the evolution in terms of genomic tests available in the market place. The American Angus Association began including genomic predictions in EPD calculations in 2009 and since then they have become standard in the beef industry.

Source: B. Lynn Gordon



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