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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: EVALUATION, DEVELOPMENT, AND USE OF GENETIC RESOURCES TO IMPROVE LIFE-CYCLE EFFICIENCY OF BEEF CATTLE AND SHEEP

Location: Genetics, Breeding, & Animal Health

Project Number: 5438-31000-082-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 01, 2007
End Date: Jul 31, 2012

Objective:
OBJECTIVE 1. Characterize quantitative and molecular genetic variation between and within breeds for traits that affect life-cycle efficiency of beef cattle. Sub-objective 1A. Characterize direct and maternal breed and heterosis effects among diverse breeds of cattle, and genetic variances and covariances within breeds for calving ease, survival, rate and efficiency of growth, carcass composition, meat quality, age and weight at puberty, reproduction, maternal performance, cow size, and herd life. Sub-objective 1B. Identify and fine map QTL regions that affect quality of beef and efficiency of production. Sub-objective 1C. Determine the efficiency of feed use among mature cows during the production interval from parturition until weaning. Sub-objective 1D. Identify genetic components associated with bovine disease resistance. Sub-objective 1E. Characterize genomic diversity among a broad sample of highly influential germplasm in the U.S. beef industry. OBJECTIVE 2. Examine potential interactions of genetically diverse breeds of cattle with climatic or nutritional environments. OBJECTIVE 3. Evaluate breeds to create an easy-care maternal line of hair sheep for use in low-input production systems. Sub-objective 3A. Evaluate wool and hair breeds in intensive and low-input production systems during traditional fall breeding and for fertility during challenging spring breeding. Sub-objective 3B. Evaluate life-cycle productivity of reciprocal crosses between the Romanov and Rambouillet breeds. Sub-objective 3C. Create an easy-care maternal line of hair sheep. OBJECTIVE 4. Evaluate power of experimental designs to estimate quantitative and molecular genetic parameters. OBJECTIVE 5. Develop statistical theory and computational algorithms to incorporate DNA information and multi-breed comparisons into genetic evaluations of beef cattle.

Approach:
Genetic variation among and within breeds, including allelic variation, provides a foundation for genetic improvement through selection and for management of genetic effects through crossbreeding (or mating) systems. Improvement of production efficiency and sustainability of beef cattle and sheep production systems are dependent on greater knowledge of genetic effects on fundamental traits affecting life-cycle efficiency such as fertility, prolificacy, maternal ability, offspring survival, health, longevity, and adaptation to production environments. Two broad approaches will be pursued: 1) large-scale animal experimentation and 2) development and application of statistical theory and software to support discovery and estimation of genetic effects. The first three objectives use experimental populations to provide genotypic and phenotypic data for traits known to affect life-cycle efficiency and for matching genetic resources with specific marketing and production situations. Large-scale beef cattle and sheep experiments using both quantitative and molecular approaches are planned to provide genotypic and phenotypic data for estimation of genetic effects on fundamental traits. Cattle research will emphasize multi-breed genetic evaluation, estimation of genetic parameters within breed, and structuring of populations to facilitate genomic research leading to development of DNA tests for economically important traits. A population of cattle is being developed for QTL identification that has recent ties to industry genetics, several half-sib families large enough to contribute to identifying QTL through linkage, and many smaller families and several potential origins of QTL allowing fine mapping, association analyses, and marker validation. Potential interactions of temperate and tropically-adapted cattle breeds with temperate and subtropical environments will be investigated through evaluation of F1 cows consistent with commercial production systems in the subtropical environment of Louisiana and the temperate environment of Nebraska. Sheep experimentation will focus on breed evaluation, leading to creation and development of an easy-care maternal line of hair sheep. The animal experiments will be complemented by research to develop and apply statistical technologies required for discovery, estimation, and use of genetic effects, including incorporation of genetic markers into multibreed genetic evaluations for beef cattle. The fourth objective addresses designs of experimental populations for estimation of genetic effects. Various mating plans will be simulated and evaluated for their power to detect QTL effects of various sizes, power of detecting breed-specific heterosis, and for the standard errors of other genetic effects. The final objective focuses on the development and application of statistical theory required for analysis of data and exploitation of genetic effects by livestock industries. Whole genome selection will be investigated as a method to reduce bias and improve accuracy of genetic prediction.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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