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The Future: DNA Tests and Premonitions

08 January 2009

US - DNA testing offers producers a way to get information sooner and for less expense than progeny testing for these types of traits.

Consider the marketing potential producers could have if they knew in advance how their cattle would perform in the feedlot and on the rail, writes Kindra Gordon for TriState Neighbour. According to the report, animals that they knew would finish and marble well could be directed to premium programs. Others that had a genetic propensity for producing a leaner end-product could be sorted out and finished for markets they were better suited to.

'While some of that sorting and predicting how cattle will perform is done already, it is still much of a guessing game. But several new DNA tests are now becoming available that identify specific performance-related genes - and aim to ultimately add efficiency and consistency to the beef industry', says the report.

GeneSTAR Marbling and GeneSTAR Tenderness were the first genetic tests of this kind to be offered to the United States beef industry and were unveiled about two years ago. Last September, a DNA test called Igenity Lª was made available by a division of the animal health company Merial. Other companies are following suit and more DNA tests for a variety of genetic traits are expected to be launched in the next year.

So what information do these tests provide and how can seedstock and commercial producers utilize that information?

"DNA testing offers producers a way to get information sooner and for less expense than progeny testing for these types of traits," Susan Knights Willmon, with Colorado-based Genetic Solutions, told Tr-State Neighbour. "Like expected progeny differences (EPDs), the genetic information revealed by GeneSTAR tests is one more selection tool available to producers for breeding cattle that produce a desirable end-product for consumers."

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