Genetic Agreement Brings Confidence to Australia

AUSTRALIA - The Beef CRC has forged a new international agreement which aims to give Australian cattle producers significantly greater confidence in new genetic technologies.
calendar icon 5 September 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The collaboration brings together the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), The US National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium (NBCEC), the University of Guelph (Canada), the University of Alberta, Edmonton (Canada), the US National Beef Cattleman’s Association (NBCA), the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) and the Beef CRC, through its Participants and Supporting Participants.

"It is clear that hundreds or perhaps thousands of DNA markers, each with a very small effect, are associated with the economically important attributes of cattle"
Beef CRC CEO, Dr Heather Burrow

Beef CRC CEO, Dr Heather Burrow, said the release of the entire bovine genome sequence in 2006 has radically changed the way DNA markers are discovered.

“Prior to the release of the sequence, a small number of DNA markers with relatively large sizes of effect had been discovered. Since the release of the sequence though, it is clear that hundreds or perhaps thousands of DNA markers, each with a very small effect, are associated with the economically important attributes of cattle,” Dr Burrow said.

She said as a result, thousands of accurately recorded animals are required to discover and validate new DNA markers. Dr Burrow said the international collaboration will strengthen the scientific capacity by doubling or even trebling the numbers of animals available to the researchers.

Rather than discovering markers in 200-400 animals as occurred in the past, the new markers will be discovered in at least 3,000 animals. They will then be confirmed in at least another 3,000 independent animals and finally validated in 15,000 animals before they are released to industry Dr Burrow said.

“This will give producers the confidence they need to use the markers to genetically test their herds.” Dr Burrow is excited about the opportunities this partnership will bring to Australia, and does not believe it will erode Australia’s trade advantage.

“We could have developed our own markers in-house. But it would take 10 years to do what we will now do in two,” she said. “Alternatively, we could have let the north Americans discover the markers and then apply them in Australia. But then we would not know if they were suitable for Australia.”

Dr Burrow said our competitive advantage will come in the way Australian beef producers use the markers to genetically improve their herds and to better meet beef market specifications. That is why the Beef CRC is placing greater emphasis on the way its DNA markers are commercialised.

“We want to release the markers under a non-exclusive licensing arrangement. This will mean greater competition in the marketplace which will hopefully drive the down the price of DNA testing and therefore increase its use,” Dr Burrow said.

The next meeting of the international collaborators will be held in November to share the results of the research to date and agree which markers will proceed through to the confirmation, validation and commercialisation stages.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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