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Bovine Genome Sequencing Project
February 22, 2013 2:15 PM

Researchers developing low cost, effective genotyping tools for cattle

Researchers with the Canadian Cattle Genome Project are developing low cost genotyping tools to help cattle producers pick breeding animals with desirable, but difficult to select for, traits.

Cattle producers will be able to use the tools to genotype potential breeding stock at a very young age, says Mary De Pauw, project manager.

“Then we can check with the genotypes to get information about how that animal might perform in the future. So it saves them a lot of time and money. They don’t have to wait until the animal is older in order to decide whether they want to keep it in their breeding program.”

The project involves collecting samples from influential sires of many beef breeds, including Angus, Charolais, Gelbvieh, Hereford, Limousin, and Simmental, plus Beefbooster and Holstein sires.

“We’ve looked at the historical pedigree of each of those breeds. And through various analyses, we’ve been able to sort of rank them and identify the top animals in those breeds,” De Pauw says. From there, researchers decided which sires they wanted to genotype.

Scientists are sequencing 30 animals from each breed, which will give them both extensive and specific information on the animals’ genomes.

De Pauw says they need some sequence data before they can genotype more animals. Genotyping maps out smaller portions of the genome associated with specific traits.

De Pauw says genotyping is “almost like we’re looking at little flags along the sequence that say, (for example), ‘Hey, I’m a flag for feed efficiency.’”

Researchers need to sample many animals to make the genotyping tools accurate. Canadian researchers will genotype around 10,000 animals in total. They’ll also draw on data gathered from collaborators in Australia, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, and the United States.

“There’s a very large international component to the project which is helping to add to our numbers, and makes our prediction tools even better.”

De Pauw says they’ve received about 5,000 to 6,000 samples so far, but they’re still looking for more, especially from influential Gelbvieh bulls.

The Canadian Cattle Genome Project is also looking for 40 young Gelbvieh sires that have the potential to influence the breed. Anyone with samples of influential, or potentially influential, Gelbvieh sires can contact De Pauw.

Researchers will probably have to do some additional work to develop tools for crossbred cattle, but this project will bring them much closer.

De Pauw says “because we’re doing so many animals, the hope is that the genotyping tools we develop will be useful across breeds, not just within one breed.”

Eight international research organizations are involved in the project, and 22 scientists are leading the research. Several organizations are sponsoring the Canadian component, which is funded for $82 million. The project will wrap up in September 2014.

For more information, visit www.canadacow.ca.

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