ARRA - Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center,
ARS is taking a multidiscplinary approach to
develop to reduce the risk of pathogen contamination of meat, other food
products, water, and the environment by meat animals.
Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska
- Scope of work under Recovery Act
Amount: $1.3 million
Repair of critical deferred maintenance including replacing
components and distribution elements for research facilities' HVAC systems.
Replacement of roofs on Buildings 1 and 2 to prevent further deterioration of
structure and contents. Replace plumbing system components in facility.
September 2009 - Construction contract awarded for $177,000 to replace the
roofs on Buildings 1 and 2
February 2010- Construction contract awarded for $846,190 for the replacement
of laboratory facility HVAC systems and components.
Research at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center
The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) improves the meat quality and
overall quality of beef, sheep, and pigs, helping keep livestock production
economically and environmentally sustainable and helping make meat safer and
more affordable for consumers.
For example, MARC researchers have developed a hide-washing tool that has
significantly improved the safety of U.S. beef, while saving the beef industry
millions of dollars a year. The treatment is now used for about half of U.S.
beef cattle, and has reduced the national incidence of E. coli in ground
beef samples by over 40 percent.
More accurate genetic tests for diagnosing scrapie disease in sheep have
also been developed by MARC scientists. This achievement could promote the
eventual eradication of this contagious, incurable and fatal disease. In
addition, with other information that ARS has developed, breeders can breed
more scrapie-resistant flocks. This achievement has improved commercially
available genotyping tests and enhanced the national scrapie eradication
program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health
MARC scientists also have developed a new method to control runoff of
manure, a significant environmental and economic problem for ranchers. In the
new system, runoff containing manure solids enters temporary storage basins at
the base of the feedlot, where solid waste settles to the bottom. The remaining
liquid is then drained evenly over a grassy field. The system requires minimal
management, significantly reduces waste storage time, eliminates the need for
costly runoff pumping, and removes standing water. It should also be less
expensive to construct and maintain than the traditional system, though cost
and suitability would vary with topography, climate, and animal type.
Animal Health Unit
Animal Health Research Unit programs are directed at understanding how
populations of infectious agent vary at the genetic level, and how that
variation affects transmission and disease expression in livestock hosts.
Genetic variation in livestock influences disease expression thus
characterizing and understanding host genetic variation is also a major
research component in the unit. Major research areas within the unit include
enterohemorrhagic E. coli in beef cattle, porcine reproductive and
respiratory syndrome virus in swine, failure of passive transfer of
immunoglobulin in neonatal calves and influence of host genetic variation on
viral disease progression.
Environmental Management Unit
The Environmental Management Research Unit is focused on providing
information for livestock production with respect to climatic and management
stress and management of livestock manure without environmental degradation.
The livestock stress program relies on the development of methods to quantify
the impact of stress on livestock performance and well-being
The manure management research program is focused on a control space
concept, with all inputs and outputs measured. The large animal population
provides the opportunity to include animal production inputs of feed,
environmental factors, facility features and animal growth into the balance.
The same production-like settings useful for stress evaluation, provide
industry representative conditions for evaluation of manure handling practices.
The feedlot surface impacts the fate of nutrient transformations that lead to
potential air, land and water contamination. Management of that surface
directly affects each of those potential contamination vectors and provides
opportunities to evaluate odor, runoff, groundwater, and surface water
Genetics & Breeding Unit
Research at USMARC characterizes genetic differences ranging from DNA
sequence differences through breed differences. These genetic differences arise
by chance in the DNA sequence, by geographic isolation, by the mating
restrictions of breed associations, by crossbreeding, and by natural and human
imposed selection. Close cooperation with scientists from many disciplines
results in comprehensive evaluations of genetic differences.
Genomic scientists skilled in obtaining DNA sequence, identifying sequence
differences, developing DNA markers, and determining genotypes have worked with
computational biologists trained in comparison and analysis of very large
collections of data to achieve significant successes. Until recent efforts to
produce whole genome sequences for cattle and pigs, much of the publicly
available DNA sequence for these species was developed at USMARC. Many QTL
studies with cattle and pigs conducted worldwide use information from the
linkage maps developed by USMARC and collaborators. A genetic marker for beef
tenderness is being rapidly adopted by beef cattle breeders. Scientists are
developing more markers for potential use in selection by breeders. A Gene
Atlas is being developed to identify what genes are being expressed in
different tissues. New insights into genome organization, such as microRNA
elements, are gained from whole genome sequence analysis of other species and
are being evaluated in livestock.
Meat Safety & Quality Unit
The primary objectives of the Meat Safety and Quality Research Unit are to
reduce the risk of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of red
meat, to respond to the research needs of the USDA action and regulatory
agencies, to increase efficiency of lean meat production, and to improve eating
quality of meat.
Pre- and post-harvest food safety research addresses the microbial status of
live animals and meat from farm to table using both molecular and standard
microbiological techniques. Unique methods are developed and validated as
necessary for sampling, isolating and identifying pathogenic and spoilage
bacteria. Sources of pathogens and approaches for their control at various
stages of livestock and meat production are determined in order to reduce the
risk of pathogen contamination of meat, other food products, water, and the
environment by meat animals. Approaches include determining mechanisms of
pathogen infection, colonization, and shedding by meat animals, development and
validation of specific and sensitive detection methodologies, and interventions
for control of pathogens in meat products, meat animals and the production
Meat quality research is directed toward identification of areas of the
genome that regulate carcass composition and meat quality, the development of
methodologies to classify carcasses based on meat quality traits and lean meat
yield, the effect of breed on carcass composition and meat quality, and the
development of strategies to optimize meat quality, especially tenderness.
The mission of the Nutrition Research Unit is to develop the knowledge and
technology to improve the efficiency of utilization of feed resources for the
production of edible products and minimize environmental impact of beef cattle,
sheep, and swine. Research emphasis include:
- Identification of mechanisms responsible for differences in efficiency of
- Development of nutrient management strategies to improve feed utilization
and minimize potential impact of animal production on the environment,
- Integration of knowledge into decision support software.
The goal of the Reproduction Research Unit (RRU) is to increase reproductive
efficiency in cattle and swine by decreasing the number of breeding-age males
and females required to produce a given number of offspring. Maintaining
animals for breeding is a significant cost in the production of domestic
livestock, thus improvements in reproductive efficiency reduce costs, increase
profitability and reduce meat prices paid by the U.S. consumer.
Reproduction research at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center includes
efforts to improve both male and female components of reproduction, including
sperm production, conception rate, embryo-fetal development, the birth process
and preweaning survival. The RRU combines traditional endocrine and physiology
studies with modern genomic, proteomic and molecular biology techniques to
provide an integrated approach to the complex problem of reproductive
efficiency in livestock.
Physiology research successes include defining the central role of Sertoli
cells in the control of testis size and sperm production in boars;
characterizing the relationship between fetal red blood cell production,
uterine capacity and litter size and increasing the incidence of twinning in
beef cattle. Genomics research successes include generating microsatellite and
SNP based genetic maps in swine; providing swine EST sequence to help define
gene expression in swine tissues; and discovering quantitative trait loci for
uterine capacity, testis size (swine), age at puberty, and ovulation rate.
Project Photographs Before Construction
Project Photographs During Construction