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Title: Isolated Jersey genetics are a treasure trove

item Blackburn, Harvey

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2012
Publication Date: 7/15/2012
Citation: Blackburn, H.D. 2012. Isolated Jersey genetics are a treasure trove. Popular Publication. July Issue.

Interpretive Summary: Jersey Island has bred and maintained their population of Jersey dairy cattle free of imported genetics for over 200 years. However, Jersey cattle breeders believed they were losing competitiveness and wanted to utilize non-Jersey Island genetics. But before allowing importations the Jersey Island Parliament required the breeders to place cryopreserved semen samples in a safe location. The Royal Jersey Agriculture and Horticultural Society worked with the National Animal Germplasm Program to ship samples from approximately 400 Jersey bulls to the repository in Ft. Collins. With the Island’s population safeguarded breeders were free to import genetic resources from other countries for use on the island.

Technical Abstract: Jersey dairy cattle are found in at least 82 countries where they have made substantial contributions to animal agriculture. The progenitors or original source breeding stock of these cattle can still be found on Jersey Island. For over 219 years, these cattle have been kept in genetic isolation from non-Jersey Island cattle. However, this situation changed in 2008. The Island’s Royal Jersey Agriculture and Horticultural Society promoted and, after evaluation by the States of Jersey parliament, concluded that Jersey genetics could be imported and used on island Jersey cattle. There is one proviso imported genetics must have an enhanced pedigree status of seven generations of recorded ancestry and no known other breed in the pedigree. An important consideration in allowing the importation of Jersey genetics to the island was the need to have semen safely cryopreserved and stored in a secure facility. By having such a reserve, the Royal Jersey Agriculture and Horticulture Society could reintroduce the preimportation genetic composition of Jersey cattle, if so desired. The Royal Jersey Agriculture and Horticulture Society found a secure facility and willing partner with the National Animal Germplasm Program located at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Ft. Collins, Colo., and part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service The National Animal Germplasm Program has been developing germplasm collections for all livestock species for over 10 years and has amassed some 700,000 samples from more than 17,000 animals. This represents approximately 130 livestock breeds and over 100 commercial and research lines. Currently, the collection has over 600 bulls from U.S. and Canadian Jersey populations. The program has also been used by researchers and industry alike to characterize and reestablish animal populations. After acquiring the necessary permits, the shipment of Jersey Island samples was initiated and completed in January 2012. The shipments contained samples from approximately 400 Jersey bulls that ranged in birth years from the 1960s to the present. The shipments also contained samples for research purposes. Samples have been sent to the USDA’s ARS Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. Researchers there will determine how different the Jersey Island cattle are from non-Jersey Island populations using the latest SNP chip tools and next generation sequencing instruments. This data will genetically identify differences and similarities in population structure, diversity and differentiation between Jersey populations. Some of this analysis will focus on finding the regions of the genome that have been changed through artificial selection for greater milk production in nonisland Jerseys while assessing if the overall diversity of island Jersey cattle is greater than those populations under intense selection. These findings will assist in future utilization of the unique genetic background preserved in the Jersey Island cattle. The States of Jersey and the Royal Jersey Agriculture and Horticulture Society’s decision to allow importation, while ensuring pre-importation genetics were safely preserved, provides a model for how genetic variability can be preserved. It also enables the livestock sector to make necessary changes to meet existing and future production challenges. In addition it is an example of how countries can be mutually supportive in conserving animal genetic resources through gene banking.