EPDs, genome sequencing discussed at BIF
EPDs are useful, but have they correlated to an increase in profitability?
Dr. Matt Spangler, a beef genetic specialist with the University of Nebraska, spoke during one of Wednesday’s sessions on a relatively new project focused on the development of a web-based sire selection tool for beef cattle producers.
“We know that economic selection indexes are the best tool for producers to use when making genetic selection decisions,” explains Spangler. “Despite this, their use is less frequent than we might wish. Moreover, there are advantages in helping producers make decisions in sire selection by combining knowledge of economics, genetic information like EPDs, breed differences and heterosis in an easy-to-use framework.”
Spangler hopes that at its completion, this tool will help the beef industry make more economically relevant genetic selection decisions and ultimately improve ranch-level profitability.
He says he would like to see genetic selection tools more widely used across the beef industry, and for beef cattle to be traded using the genetic value of those animals to help determine the monetary value. “I also expect that there will be substantial changes and continued improvement in the use of genomic technology to continue to improve the accuracy of selection and management systems.”
“The development of EPD for traits that are profit drivers for the commercial industry and are not routinely collected in seedstock herds such as the health status of the animals, health attributes of the beef products, sensitivity to environmental stress and male fertility is also needed,” he said.
Dr. Warren Snelling, a research geneticist with the United States Meat Animal Research Center, talked to BIF participants about new developments in low-coverage genome sequencing in livestock and how imputing that to find specific genes and variations can be a cost-effective alternative to current genotyping done in cattle. Low-coverage genome sequencing is a new type of DNA sequence that allows many samples to be sequenced at a time.
“It has really been a pilot project initiated by a company called iGemomix,” explains Snelling. “iGenomix has the technology to sequence 900 samples at a time using low coverage sequencing. Another company, Gencove, can impute from that sequence to genotypes of sequence variations known from a reference panel that represents all the major beef and dairy breeds and a number of minor breeds. The imputed genotyped include genomic variants that affect livestock performance and may allow more accurate genomic selection.”
Since low-coverage genome sequencing can be done with many samples, instead of just one, it is expected to be a cost-efficient solution to producers and ranchers who want to genotype more of their herd and receive more genetic information on their livestock than they can get with traditional SNP chips.
Snelling believes that low-coverage genome sequencing will make it easier for ranchers and producers to genotype every calf, at least on the seedstock level, and should improve accuracy of EPDs. “Instead of selectively genotyping sale bulls and selected heifers, genotyping every calf will reduce the selective bias in genetics and make for more reliable EPDs.”
Snelling also believes that on the commercial end of the industry, genotyping calves could give producers information that could help them make decisions on which heifers to keep or sell and give valuable information to feedlots that will allow them to sort based on the genotypes of the calves coming in.
“If producers take the time to look at the performance of the herd and then put that information back into the evaluation system, they will receive a lot more information on their calves, not just EPDs but other predictions as well,” explains Snelling. “In the next ten years, I would like to see low-coverage genome sequencing adopted more, especially in the commercial end of the industry.”
“The overall goal of the BIF Annual Meeting and Research Symposium is to bring together industry, academia and producers from around the world who are working on or invested in genetic improvement of beef cattle,” explains Jane Parish, professor at North Mississippi Research and Extension Center and executive director of BIF. “The idea is to exchange ideas, share new research and industry information, and engage in robust discussions about what is needed and what can be done to continue to advance beef improvement concepts and applications,”
“While here, competitors act as collaborators for the overall benefit of the beef industry,” says Parish. “Many of the issues covered lead to new research and research projects that will benefit the beef industry and members look forward to the following BIF Conventions to see the progress of these research projects. We hope that attendees leave with practical and innovative applications of genetic selection tools ready to implement in their operations or businesses and a sense of the direction as to where beef improvement efforts and emerging technologies are headed and what will become available applications in the future.”
The 51st Annual Beef Improvement Federation Annual Meeting and Research Symposium was held June 18-21 in Brookings, SD. More than 500 beef producers, academia and industry representatives were in attendance discussing new and advancing technology in the cattle industry. Founded in 1968, the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) is an organization dedicated to advancing and coordinating all segments of the beef industry. From the start, the BIF sought to connect science and industry to improve beef cattle genetics.
The 52nd Annual BIF Annual Meeting and Research Symposium is scheduled for June 9-12, 2020 at the Embassy Suites Orlando, Lake Buena Vista South, Florida. For more information on current BIF board members as well as online resources and BIF’s premiere publication Guidelines for Uniform Beef Improvement Programs visit http://www.beefimprovement.org.