Bovine genomics technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Since the first genetic marker in beef cattle — a marker for marbling — was available in 2000, rapid advancements in the breadth and application of genomics have transformed the landscape of beef cattle genetics.
Pfizer Animal Genetics is releasing a new genomic test this month that will expand the breadth of cattle DNA evaluation by almost a thousand-fold — from a current 56-marker technology to predictions that utilize more than 50,000 markers.
The new high-density 50K (50K HD) offering is based on the Bovine SNP50 DNA-marker chip, which will provide a much more complete genetic profile of each animal evaluated. The test is being offered initially for Angus producers, with customization for other breeds expected to follow.
New information offers endless possibilities to beef producers
According to Dr. Ronnie Green, senior director of global technical services for Pfizer Animal Genetics, the 50K HD test will allow for the evaluation of a host of economically relevant traits — including tenderness, dry-matter intake, yield grade, average daily gain and feed efficiency — which are not typically evaluated using EPDs. “This by no means implies that EPDs will become obsolete,” Green stresses. “Rather, evaluation of the new suite of traits will significantly add to the decision-making toolbox available to breeders, enhancing the precision and speed at which they are able to make genetic progress in their herds.”
Breeders like Lee Leachman, Wellington, Colo., realize the opportunities the new 50K predictions offer to their operations and the entire beef industry.
“Until now the 50K technology has been just used for research. Now, using this technology in the seedstock business will expand our selection to cover almost all of the traits that affect profitability,” Leachman says. “As an industry, we’ve evolved from selection based on a few traits to a point where we are now interested in 15 to 20 traits (like growth, carcass, fertility and longevity) that are influenced by thousands and thousands of genes. The 50K technology will increase the accuracy of our decisions on nearly every important trait.”
Leachman sees the impact that the new technology will have on profitability. “For us, there is tremendous value in using predictions from the 50K technology to choose from a group of a thousand yearling bulls, with accuracy, which ones will provide the most profit,” Leachman says.