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Gene breakthrough

New research is helping to increase productivity in the dairy and beef industries by accelerating the pace of genetic gain in Victoria’s herds.

July 15, 2014 3:10am

DNA profiling tests will help dairy and beef producers to make better breeding decisions .


DEPI scientists Hans Daetwyler and Ben Hayes have led an international consortium that has sequenced the genomes of 234 cattle in the first stage of the Dairy Futures Co-operative Research Centre’s ‘1000 Bull Genomes’ project.

In a paper published on Monday in the prestigious international journal Nature Genetics, the researchers explained how the project would help to develop DNA profiling tests that dairy and beef producers could use to make better breeding decisions that lead to more productive animals.

Dr Hayes, who is computational biology research leader at DEPI and an associate professor at La Trobe University, said the aim of the project was to build a large database that captured the majority of the genetic variation for all cattle breeds.

‘‘Information gathered from this research will allow cattle producers to make better predictions of the breeding merit of young bulls or heifers and the impact that genetics have on milk production, fertility, and other traits that affect farm profitability,’’ Dr Hayes said.

‘‘We have already sequenced the entire genomes of 234 cattle and identified a total of 28.3million genetic variants that can now be used to aid genomic prediction and help farmers predict which animals are the most productive on the farm.

‘‘The Holstein dairy bulls sequenced have had more than 518000 daughters on dairy farms in Australia and at least 6.3million daughters globally, revealing that they are true legends of the breed.’’

Dr Hayes said analysis of the genome sequences had also exposed genetic defects that could now be removed to improve the health and welfare of future herds.

The research is a project of the Dairy Futures Co-operative Research Centre with support from DEPI and Dairy Australia and is undertaken at AgriBio, the Centre for AgriBioscience, a joint venture between the Victorian Government and La Trobe University.

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