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Genomics Coming of Age for Commercial Beef Herds

By Steve Suther
Beef Vet Magazine and
Winter 2013

The growth in DNA usage for commercial cattle herds has come from the ability to predict performance traits.

So it is with almost any new technology: There is a period of development, working out the kinks. Then come tweaks in application and the early-adopters begin to test it out. In the years that follow, as more and more people tend to pick it up, advances are made and it becomes a mainstream tool.

Where is DNA technology in that continuum and in relation to the cattle business?

Tonya Amen, with Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI), says uptake of genomic testing has nearly doubled in the last year, but it's still used on less than 10 percent of the animals in the breed's registry.

Yet comparing today to five years ago shows a broader range of commercial tools now and dramatic differences in the types of usage, she says.

“We all started using it for parentage verification,” says Richard Kirkman, DVM, owner of Carolina Equine and Food Animal Mobile Veterinary Service and purebred Angus breeder from Siler City, NC. “It's really amazing the number of animals that we were unsure of who their parents were. When we have animals that excel, either on a registered or commercial basis, we don't always know who their ancestors are and that's critically important.”

Amen says the second use of DNA is to test for “simply inherited” traits, such as coat color or specific genetic defects.

But more recently, the growth in usage has come from the ability to predict performance traits.

“In the Angus breed, that genomic information is incorporated directly into the EPD with no need to look at the genomics separately,” she says. It's the same with other breeds using the National Cattle Evaluations standards. That is a boon to both commercial and registered producers. Read the entire article.

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