NCERA225: Implementation and Strategies for National Beef Cattle Genetic Evaluation
Statement of Issues and JustificationThe U. S. beef industry presents unique challenges in developing strategies for genetic improvement of beef cattle because it is made up of distinct, competitive segments, each with multiple profit centers. Furthermore, because genetic improvement is accomplished almost entirely through the efforts of independent breeders and beef cattle breed associations (versus breeding companies in the poultry and swine industries and AI studs in the dairy industry) there are no broadly accepted breeding goals nor is there an integrated approach for genetic improvement across industry segments. Consequently, national genetic evaluation programs sponsored by beef breed associations have become the foundation for genetic improvement of beef cattle. The development of National Cattle Evaluation (NCE) systems was accomplished because of efforts of breed associations and resources at specific land grant universities. NCE includes the collection, analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of genetic information for almost every major breed (BIF, 2002). The success of NCE has been accomplished because breed associations pay a significant portion of the costs through contracts with land-grant universities. They also bear all the cost of data collection (NCR-199, 2003). However, the formation of the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium (NBCEC) in 2001 provided new sources of federal funding to assist with NCE efforts. According to the NBCEC prospectus, the mission is to "develop and implement improved methodologies and technologies for genetic evaluation of beef cattle for the purpose of maximizing the impact genetic programs have on the economic viability, international competitiveness, and sustainability of U.S. beef cattle producers and to provide consumers with affordable and healthy beef products." Several members of the NCERA 199 committee provide leadership, conduct research, and hold regular outreach activities using the resources of the NBCEC (NBCEC, 2005). There is an informal relationship between the NCERA 199 committee and NBCEC. The NBCEC is focused on the development and implementation of long-term goals for NCE. The NCERA 199 committee is focused more on coordination of research activities and shorter-term goals. Also supporting innovations in NCE is research from a much broader network of scientists at other universities and the USDA. Results from NCE are distributed, usually biannually, to the industry via the beef breed associations. Technology adoption is exceedingly quick. The potential of this technology is enhanced through the outreach programs of NCERA 199 members, research and education personnel at the breed associations, and extension specialists at universities (NCR-199, 2003). The beef industry considers the NCE programs to be very successful as evidenced by the widespread use of genetic information by the registered seedstock and commercial segments of the industry. Due to NCE, all breeds with developed performance programs have demonstrated genetic trends over time. Many of these breed associations are finding it difficult to continue funding NCE despite the growing demand for expanded information from industry stakeholders. Therefore, close coordination among researchers and breed associations is becoming increasingly important. NCERA 199 has been and will continue to be the best method for achieving the needs of NCE. The additional resources provided by the NBCEC have improved the general infrastructure of NCE. This cooperation will maximize adoption of innovative applications and technologies and will minimize costs by reducing unnecessary duplication of effort. For the 2011 to 2016 project period, the following list represents examples of research issues and challenges to be addressed by this committee: 1) Development of genetic predictions for economically relevant traits, particularly those related to production efficiency, animal health and human health via healthfulness of beef products; 2.) Greater investment in integrative research that utilizes advancements in bioinformatics and functional genomics to exploit the genetic architecture of economically relevant traits for beef cattle production; 3.) Improvements to current NCE methodology and computational strategies that incorporate vast quantities of molecular data from different breeds and countries.
Last Modified: 22-May-2012
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