The Expanding Role of Genomics in the Beef Industry

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Purebred cattle operations rely largely on DNA for parentage verification and identifying potential genetic defects, but where is the rest of the industry at with genomics? Is there a role for genome mapping in commercial herds? How will it help the industry as a whole?

“There’s genomic tools for every sector of the value chain all the way to the packer,” says John Crowley, postdoctoral research fellow with the University of Alberta.

In fact, there are ongoing projects at the Lacombe Research Centre looking into the role gene mapping can have in determining feed efficiency of cattle both on pasture and in a feedlot setting. This work could have huge potential for our industry, by decreasing inputs while also reducing our environmental footprint.

As it stands, Crowley doesn’t consider genomics a viable option for commercial herds, but says it won’t be long. “Every day the cost of this technology is going down,” says Crowley, “that’s why the research is taking off so quickly.”

In this video, Crowley further describes what information we can obtain by analyzing the genome, who benefits, and how to collect DNA samples for the lab. Crowley also emphasizes the visual interpretation of animal traits and identity, as it plays an integral role in genetic selection and improvement as well. So, don’t throw your pen out just yet.

If you cannot view the embedded video, click here.

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