Genome project promises a beef production revolution

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cattle, Dna

The beef industry's ability to accurately breed cattle for specific
traits such as increased meat or milk yield has been significantly
improved with the release of the first draft of the bovine genome
sequence.

The sequencing of the bovine genome is expected to make it easier for breeders to identify and isolate key traits such as meat tenderness, which has been shown to be an inherent trait.

The bovine genome sequence will also serve as a tool to improve health and disease management of cattle and enhance the nutritional value of beef and dairy products. Identifying, mapping, and understanding the function of genes in cattle will make food supplies safer by providing methods for genetic tracking of animals and animal products, selecting animals with reduced risk for disease, and decreasing the use of antibiotics.

"The bovinegenome sequencingproject will certainlyhave significant impacton the global beefindustry,"​ said RichardWortham,Texas Beef Council executive vicepresident.

"We expectthis landmark researchto provide better understandingof how bovinetraits determine beefquality. These traitsinclude growth, efficiency,marbling, diseaseresistance, droughttolerance, milk productionand much more."

In effect, the researchers behind the project believe that the successful sequencing of the beef genome will result in more efficient and profitable methods of meat and milk production for beef and dairy producers.

The sequence, which was completed by the Genome Sequencing Project, has been made available online. Researchers therefore have complete access to the bovine genome sequence, which should aid attempts to uncover more information about individual genes and their effect on important traits in cattle.

The data can be accessed through GenBank GenBank​ and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's Nucleotide Sequence database.

The Bovine Genome Sequencing Project is a $53-million US multi-institutional initiative that began in 2003. The Canadian arm of the project has invested US$5 million through Genome Canada.

The first draft was based on DNA taken from a Hereford, a breed of cattle used in beef production and was produced by sequencing the genome 3.3 times. The final target, which is expected to sequence the genome six times, should be completed sometime in 2005.

The initiative also plans to sequence part of the genomes of additional cattle breeds including the Holstein, Angus, Jersey, Limousin, Norwegian Red and Brahman. That information will help discover genes for improved meat and milk production and to help researchers develop new strategies for protecting cattle from disease.

The bovine genome is similar in size to the genomes of humans and other mammals, containing approximately 3 billion DNA base pairs and an estimated 25,000 genes.

Other contributors to the international effort to sequence the genome of the cow include the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health and the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education.

To read the white paper for the cow sequencing effort, click here.

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