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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


ARS Animal Improvement Programs Lab Honored by Government Executive

By Hank Becker

BELTSVILLE, Md., Dec. 11--Government Executive magazine has presented the Agricultural Research Service’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory here with one of its 1998 Government Technology Leadership Awards. The award was presented earlier this month at the Reagan International Trade Center in Washington.

The award recognizes ARS' Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) for initiating a project that increases the rate of genetic improvement of dairy cows. To achieve this, scientists at the lab--led by geneticist H. Duane Norman--provide breeders with timely information to identify dairy cattle with the highest genetic merit.

“The Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory is responsible for evaluating the genetics of dairy cattle. This information is vital to dairy breeders and breeding companies looking for the next generation of the U.S. milking herd,” said Caird Rexroad, ARS’ Associate Deputy Administrator for Animal Production, Product Value and Safety.

Genetic merit of over 11 million dairy cows is estimated each year, requiring the AIPL staff to process over 60 million milk records. These evaluations are available to 38,000 U.S. dairy breeders, 100 artificial-insemination organizations, 65 extension specialists, 6 dairy records processing centers, and hundreds of researchers in the United States and many foreign countries.

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

“Reducing the time of providing new information is one key way of increasing the rate of genetic improvement," Rexroad said. The AIPL project annually provides $60 million of additional value to dairy producers and consumers while saving $85,000 a year at the laboratory.

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

In addition to Norman, the research leader, the AIPL staff includes geneticists Rex. L. Powell, George R. Wiggans, Curtis P. Van Tassell and Paul M. VanRaden; five support scientists and seven data-processing specialists.

For the last 7 years, Government Executive has named about 20 awardees yearly. This year, in addition to AIPL, Government Executive honored 18 other awardees, including two other USDA groups, selected from nearly 200 nominations. Individual members of the groups cited received plaques at the ceremony.

Scientific contact: H. Duane Norman, ARS, Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8334, fax (301) 504-8092,

Last Modified: 5/15/2017
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