Fertility and Reproduction Research Helps Fill Out U.S. Herds
A lot is riding on the backs of cows in
the United States. According to USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS), the United States has the largest
fed-cattle industry in the world and is the world's largest producer of beef.
Following beef, milk has the highest farm production value in U.S. agriculture.
That's why it's important for ARS to
ensure an abundant and safe supply of dairy and beef products at a competitive
price for the world economy. ARS'
Animal Production national research program works to meet these
responsibilities by overseeing studies aimed at improving the reproductive
efficiency of livestock and improving genetic selection.
Research efforts include improving
reproductive performance of animals through nutrition, health management and
genetics. Research advances and new biotechnologies are being developed to
reduce losses caused by reproductive problems and maximize output of
high-quality meat and milk.
In Beltsville, Md., the
Improvement Programs Laboratory introduced
a national genetic
evaluation for dairy cattle fertility. The evaluations will help breeders
improve their herd's reproductive performance, according to
Norman, ARS supervisory research geneticist. Dairy producers and breeding
companies also have information on "daughter calving ease" to describe a cow's
ability to give birth easily. This is important information to use when
selecting mating bulls. Details on this are now included in a database, along
with information on other fitness traits that affect health, vigor and
profitability. Breed associations have rapidly adopted these new evaluations in
U.S. livestock are produced in a wide
array of environments and management systems. Selection generally leads to
narrowing the genetic base. Improvements in the efficiency of livestock
production have resulted from advances in genetic selection programs.
Maintaining genetic diversity is essential for livestock to adapt to different
climates, production systems and exposure to new diseases.
For example, ARS researchers led a group
of collaborators in obtaining germplasm for Holstein cattle, the United States'
primary dairy cattle breed. The
donation of a large
bull semen collection to ARS is helping breeders preserve genetic diversity in
beef and dairy cattle. The
Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) at the
Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo., will
identify, preserve, characterize and distribute germplasm for future use,
according to NAGP coordinator
Blackburn. The associated information will be stored in the animal
component of the GRIN (Genetic Resources
Information Network) database. The collection will help researchers and
industry partners develop animals with valuable traits such as disease
resistance and improved meat and milk production.
This is just a sampling of ARS' research
to increase the efficiency and sustainability of production of beef and dairy
cattle, poultry, swine and sheep. Other researchers at 17 locations across the
United States are involved in 50 research projects in the Food Animal
Production national program. For more information, visit their
ARS scientists and university collaborators worked
together to develop new
tests that rapidly detect and differentiate bacteria that cause Johne's
Ground was recently broken on a new ARS state-of-the-art
facility in Beltsville, Md.
ARS researchers in El Reno, Okla., have partnered with two
companies to develop hand-held remote
sensors that use spectral reflectance technology to display forage nutrient
A new ARS
provides users with information on swine genes and proteins related to
nutrition and immunity.
ARS researchers have published findings for breeders
regarding ram sexual
A more effective way to produce
trout was developed by ARS scientists.
Fish oil and other nutritional supplements could give
a boost to pig
immunity, according to ARS scientists.
Each year the President of the United States recognizes
and celebrates a select group of career senior executives and senior
professionals (research and staff scientists) with the
Presidential Rank Award for
exceptional long-term accomplishments. There are two categories of rank awards:
Distinguished and Meritorious. ARS has one Distinguished Senior Professional
for 2005 among its honorees.
Fayer, a research zoologist in Beltsville, Md., was selected for
discoveries and contributions to the biology, epidemiology and control of
three major parasitic diseases of livestock and humans: coccidiosis,
sarcocystosis, and cryptosporidiosis.