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Beefs and Beliefs

DNA Tests Still Improving, Expanding

Caveat: Industry should beware overemphasis on production traits.

I heard at NCBA’s annual meeting in Denver last week from the big DNA-testing companies that Limousin and Hereford cattle should soon have genomic-enhanced EPDs as the Angus breed does now.

It sounds like Limousin is a little ahead and might hit the market first.

However, new technology could soon let the breeds share more information and improve the overall accuracy of the bovine DNA testing, perhaps for many more breeds.

Alison Van Eenennaam, animal biotechnology extension specialist for the University of California-Davis, recently wrote that the 700K DNA test chips allow a broader measurement which could help show the same gene controlling traits in multiple breeds.

In the past, 50K chips sometimes missed these genetic associations because they measured a relatively narrow piece of the DNA around the markers.

More information could be a good thing, and certainly anything that measures across breeds instead of breed-specific I would argue is a good thing.

The only thing that continues to worry me is the way we’ve used EPDs and the way we may be using DNA to select performance traits at the expense of profit and efficiency.

I believe those numbers must be tracked and analyzed on the farm in light of local environment and the level of input costs. Only then should performance traits be blended into the breeding matrix.

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