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Researchers genotyping semen from historic animals

By genotyping influential beef bulls, researchers hope to create a low-cost tool that predicts key animal traits

Check your tanks for bull semen, because you might have the sample the Canadian Cattle Genome Project is trying to find.

Researchers want to sequence the genotypes of influential beef bulls and are looking for semen vials, semen straws, blood, tail hair and tissue to obtain DNA samples.

“For each of the breeds we’re working with, we have a pedigree looking at the key historic animals that have been involved in creating the population that we have in Canada,” said Mary De Pauw, project manager for the Canadian Cattle Genome Project.

Scientists from several institutions, including the University of Guelph and University of Alberta, will be sequencing the DNA of 25 key historic bulls as well as five younger bulls that have had influence on the Canadian cattle population. Over 1,000 animals of each breed will be genotyped to help researchers determine how each animal is different or specialized within its species.

“We’re trying to test the genotype and the phenotype so that eventually people will be able to test a really young animal and see its genetic value for their breeding programs,” said De Pauw.

The researchers have already received a large number of samples and have begun genotyping and sequencing them. However, they are finding it difficult to find samples from some key historic animals and are asking cattle owners who think they may have such a sample to contact them. Anyone who donates a sample of a key historical animal for sequencing will receive a tax receipt from the University of Alberta.

The three-year, $8.2-million project is part of an international effort with Australia, Ireland, Scotland and the U.S.

“There’s a great advantage in having these international collaborations because we’re able to share our data with them, and they share data with us,” said De Pauw. “The more genotyping information you can get, the stronger and more accurate your prediction tools will become.”

Once all the samples have been collected, researchers will be looking to create a low-cost tool that producers can use to measure and predict key animal traits. The Canadian Cattle Genome Project is also working with a number of breed organizations including Charolais, Limousin, Hereford, Gelbvieh, Angus and Simmental. The researchers are also working with Beefbooster, and the Canadian Dairy Network. Cattle from University of Guelph and the University of Alberta’s Kinsella ranch research cattle herd are also included in the project.

Anyone who thinks they may have a sample from one of the historic animals can contact Mary De Pauw at [email protected] or 780-248-1901 or project lead Steve Miller at [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for the Glacier FarmMedia publication, the Alberta Farmer Express, since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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