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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Animal Improvement Programs Lab Honored For Technology Transfer / February 7, 2001 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Animal Improvement Programs Lab Honored for Technology Transfer

By Hank Becker
February 7, 2001

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 7—The Agricultural Research Service honors a team of agency animal scientists at the Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) here today.

ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn will present awards to the team and other ARS scientists at a Feb. 7 ceremony at the agency's Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The ARS team members will receive silver plaques for success in developing, implementing and enhancing computing procedures and electronic delivery systems that allow more rapid identification of genetically superior dairy animals.

“The award recognizes ARS’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory for initiating a project that speeds up the rate of genetic improvement of milk yield in dairy cows,” said Horn. “To achieve this, team members--led by geneticist H. Duane Norman- -provide breeders with more timely information to identify dairy cattle with the highest genetic merit.”

In addition to Norman, the award recipents are geneticists Rex. L. Powell, George R. Wiggans, Curtis P. Van Tassell and Paul M. VanRaden; and support staff Lillian R. Bacheller, Jill C. Philpot and Leigh M. Walton.

The AIPL is responsible for evaluating the genetics of dairy cattle--information vital to dairy breeders and breeding companies looking for the next generation of the U.S. milking herd’s 9.2 million cows. The researchers’ system for calculating and delivering national genetic evaluations of dairy cattle has been essential for increasing the average yearly milk yield of each successive generation of U.S. dairy cattle by 150 gallons per cow.

To estimate the genetic merit of dairy cows, four time a year the AIPL staff must process nearly 70 million milk records. The AIPL make these evaluations available to 40,000 dairy breeders, artificial-insemination organizations, extension specialists, dairy records processing centers, breed registry societies and university researchers. They are also used by counterpart groups worldwide.

AIPL's new evaluation system reduces by over one-half the time elapsed between receiving the incoming information and releasing the genetic evaluations to industry. Because of this time savings--and the fact that the information is processed twice as often--users receive the new data an average of 11 weeks sooner than in the past.

Reducing this informational lag time has been one key way to increase the rate of genetic improvement. The AIPL project annually is providing around $60 million of additional value to U.S. dairy producers and consumers while saving $136,000 a year at the laboratory. And because genetic improvement is permanent, these gains are perpetuated and compounded over the years.

AIPL reports the ranking data quarterly and makes the information available to producers globally via its website at AIPL also provides an electronic file-transfer system via the Internet for cooperating user organizations and makes common files available to the general public.

Over the last 6 years, the AIPL team collectively and individually have received numerous government, industry and professional awards including Government Executive magazine’s leadership award, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (Vice-President’s Hammer) Award, the Outstanding Service Award of the National Dairy Herd Improvement Association.

Four geneticists on the team each received the American Dairy Science Association’s J. L. Lush Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics and three received the National Association of Animal Breeders’ Research Award--two of the highest genetics award given.

Scientific contact: H. Duane Norman, Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8334, fax (301) 504-8090,

Last Modified: 7/10/2014
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