Genetic improvement, new technologies and new markets were among the topics discussed at the 18th biennial International Limousin Conference, May 20–28 in Italy. Kent Andersen, Ph.D., executive vice president for the North American Limousin Foundation (NALF), addressed the conference's “Future Perspectives of Limousin in the World” technical session, which was May 25 in Florence. He explained how the U.S. Beef Industry Whole-Genome Selection Project will enable and enhance genetic evaluation.
For breeders and commercial users of Limousin and Lim-Flex® genetics, Andersen said, the project and related public and private efforts promise to affect selection decisions and breed improvement dramatically. Existing selection tools, such as expected progeny differences (EPDs), are likely to be genome-enhanced and have appreciably higher associated accuracies before progeny information is available.
Andersen described how NALF is working to empower Limousin breeders and their commercial customers to adapt emerging genomics technologies for enhanced profitability.
“Historically, Limousin breeders and commercial users have used a variety of information tools for making selection decisions. They include visual animal appraisal; pedigrees; phenotypic performance data; EPDs; and bio-economic selection indexes, such as our mainstream terminal index,” he said. “While those tools will continue to help breeders make reliable selection decisions, rapidly evolving genome-based technology now has the potential to revolutionize how cattle producers and breed associations approach animal evaluation.”
Unprecedented public and private investment in genomics research and infrastructure is driving the revolution. NALF's involvement in the research has positioned Limousin breeders and commercial users of Limousin and Lim-Flex genetics to take competitive advantage of emerging genomics technology, Andersen said.
The U.S. Beef Industry Whole-Genome Selection Project initiated earlier this year is likely to accelerate the evolution toward genome-enhanced and -enabled animal-evaluation tools. For Limousin breeders and commercial producers, genomics research ultimately could yield appreciably higher accuracy predictions of genetic merit for all animals – including young, nonparent bulls – and for an even more comprehensive set of economically relevant traits (ERTs).
Andersen told how federal researchers and beef breed association representatives met last year to discuss the incorporation of genomics information into the U.S. national cattle evaluation (NCE) system. Another outcome of the project is the potential development of DNA-based diagnostic tests for commercial cow-calf producers and cattle feeders for marker-assisted management (MAM).
To accommodate inclusion of the breed, NALF coordinated members' donations of semen from proven Limousin artificial-insemination (AI) sires.
The U.S. Beef Industry Whole-Genome Selection Project builds upon the International Bovine HapMap Project, which began in 2004 and resulted in the derivation of 40,000 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes from at least 24 animals in each of 19 different breeds. Thanks to support from NALF and the International Limousin Council, the HapMap project captured the breed's global genetic variation by including 42 influential Limousin animals – more than any other major beef breed.