Definition of high growth genes in beef cattle

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Source: Alberta Beef Producers

Major step to boost productivity of the Canadian herd.

Cattle genomics research holds tremendous promise to unlock the blueprints for animals that use less food, finish better and produce less waste. In this study, researchers identified several genes associated with “high growth” in beef cattle, which will help the industry improve productivity through early identification of animals with the genetic fortune to carry this valuable trait.

“The objective was to use some innovative approaches to develop molecular markers for high growth potential in beef cattle,” says Dr. Bernie Benkel of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research Centre. “We identified many chromosome regions that were significantly associated with birth weight and average daily gain on feed. At least three of these genes show significant associations with growth traits and warrant further investigation for the development of direct markers for growth traits.”

Molecular markers are pieces of DNA that repeated analysis shows are closely linked to the presence of genes that control a specific trait, such as growth potential, explains Benkel. The advantage is that these markers are easier to identify than the genes themselves, making them a powerful selection tool.

Currently, scientists have limited information on specific genes affecting growth in cattle, says Benkel. However, since the genetic make-up of all mammals is similar, researchers can borrow information from the genome map of one species and apply it to another. “It appears that genes which perform a certain function in humans or mice, frequently have a very similar if not identical function in cattle,” says Benkel. “We can use that information to predict which genes in cattle control economically important traits, such as growth in this case.”

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