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Genetic evaluations for economically important traits have been developed for all major breeds of U.S. dairy cattle through research by ARS scientists working on the Animal Improvement Program (AIP).
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Lifetime net merit, a selection index developed by ARS geneticist Paul VanRaden, ranks dairy cows and bulls on the economic value of their genetic traits–such as milk quantity and quality, productive lifespan, reproductive ability, conformation, and resistance to mastitis, a common dairy cow disease.
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ARS geneticist Erin Connor is developing tools and selectable genetic markers to improve nutrient use efficiency in dairy cattle. Such studies help enhance selection for feed efficiency as well as the development of novel dietary strategies to reduce feed costs for the dairy industry.
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The high-capacity DNA sequencer being loaded by ARS geneticist Curt Van Tassell will increase the number of genetic markers available for screening in the dairy population. Results from DNA analysis and genomic research are used to improve the U.S. dairy population.
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Genetic evaluations available to the dairy industry today include genotype information to increase their accuracy for breeders. Detailed information on discovery and development of improved methods for genetic and genomic evaluation can be found at the AIP web site: https://aipl.arsusda.gov/.
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ARS scientists are using genotypic data from the African Goat Improvement Network under the Feed the Future Initiative to develop novel genotyping panels. Those panels will aid in breeding goats that are genetically adapted for improved animal survival, fertility, and growth in extreme environments.
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The Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory (AGIL) was formed in April 2014 through a merger of the Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) and the Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory (BFGL).