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Scientists looking for producers to participate in beef genomic trial

The project is part of the effort to use genomics to select cattle 
with improved feed efficiency and other desirable traits

Want to know more about the feed efficiency and traits of your cattle? Interested in contributing to research that can make a difference in Canadian beef cattle production?

Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are looking for producers to send in samples from their herds for use in a genomic prediction trial.

“This will potentially help beef producers to select beef cattle with improved efficiency and carcass quality,” said Changxi Li, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the University of Alberta.

Scientists at Livestock Gentec, a partner in the project, have developed prediction equations for feed efficiency, which is usually expensive and difficult to measure.

In the past, feed efficiency tests would be costly, and a producer would have to send their bull to a test station for 75 to 80 days. But the test in this trial only requires a hair, tissue, or blood sample. And the cost is just $45 per sample as half of the cost is covered by the program.

The testing will give producers information about the pedigree of their animals. They’ll also have DNA markers from their cattle in the database as well as 50K SNP data along with predicted genetic merit or molecular breeding values of the genetic trait. The scientists will then be able to provide estimates about the animal’s traits.

“I know that some (breed) associations do provide some carcass expected progeny differences, but we would provide a bit more,” said Michael Vinsky, research assistant with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. “Mostly, the biggest advantage would be knowing the feed efficiency, or how much the animal might eat on the feedlot or how much it would gain.”

The process will be similar to one used by livestock drug maker Zoetis, he said.

“Work on this project will improve accuracy and prediction methods. This will make a better tool for Canadian producers,” he said.

The scientists are hoping to receive samples from a wide variety of producers.

“This is open to anyone who is interested. It’s not just purebred producers,” said Vinsky. “Crossbred producers might be interested as well. We would look at their application and decide if we want them to participate in this program. We have a limited number of spots available.”

Interested producers will also have to submit information including the animal’s birthdate, age, and birth weight on a website currently being developed.

“We’ll open it to a limited number of people to work out the bugs and get the process streamlined before we open it up to more people,” said Vinsky.

This three-year project began in April and there will be two rounds of tests. The first round will cover about 250 animals and run until March 2017.

Producers who are interested in submitting samples and SNP genotyping can contact Vinsky at [email protected]. Anyone with scientific questions can contact Li at [email protected].

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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