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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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ARRA - Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska

Contractor Information

Related Links

Link to ARS Recovery Act Info.

Link to USDA Recovery Act Info.

Link to White House's site.

Photo: Researchers inject beef with a solution of food-grade calcium chloride.

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.

Construction Photos

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 Inspection Service.

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.

Research Units

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 concerns.

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 environment.

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.

Nutrition Unit

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 nutrient utilization,
  • 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.

Reproduction Unit

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

Repairs to be done in Clay Center Repairs in Clay Center
Repairs needed in Clay Center Repairs in Clay Center
Repairs in Clay Center  

Project Photographs During Construction


Last Modified: 7/3/2015
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