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A new genomics tool—the 50k SNP BeadChip—makes it easier for scientists to transfer genetic information for use by the beef and dairy cattle industries. Click the image for more information about it.

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Here's the Beef: Identifying DNA Markers and Traits

By Laura McGinnis
August 5, 2008

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are using a new tool to find relationships between DNA markers and economically significant traits in cattle.

The new tool, called the Illumina BovineSNP50 BeadChip, is a glass slide containing thousands of DNA markers, some of which may be associated with important production traits such as disease resistance.

ARS researchers at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Neb., and the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, are using the BeadChip to research bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Cattle can carry BRD without showing any symptoms, so infected animals can be difficult to identify. Tools like the BeadChip may facilitate identification of genetic markers for traits like BRD resistance.

Another project employing the BeadChip technology is a USMARC investigation into the influence of genetics on feed efficiency. Research leader Cal Ferrell, geneticist Mark Allan and their colleagues are identifying phenotypes--visible characteristics--that relate to post-weaning feed efficiency and lifetime productivity in beef cattle.

The researchers are also using the BeadChip to find relationships between DNA markers and phenotypes that can be used to enhance genetic selection and management in beef cattle. These studies could eventually allow researchers to develop tools that can be used to guide animal breeding selection and management decisions.

The BeadChip has research applications for both beef and dairy cattle. Design of the BeadChip was led by ARS researchers at Beltsville, Md., in collaboration with ARS scientists at Clay Center and colleagues from the University of Missouri and the University of Alberta in Canada. The chip is being used at all those locations and many others--in at least 23 locations in 11 countries.

ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.