Friday, January 22, 2016

Making a Positive Genetic Impact on Your Herd: NCBA's Cattlemen's Webinar Series


Technology in the beef industry is constantly improving, which can make it hard to keep up. Plus, we want to ensure that we are using all of the available practices to produce beef in a profitable, efficient, and conscientious manner. With this in mind, National Cattlemen's Beef Association hosts an annual webinar series, and this year I am excited to be involved!

On February 16th at 7PM CST, Bob Weaber and I will present during the NBCA Cattlemen's Webinar Series. Dr. Weaber will discuss the positive effects crossbreeding has on your cow herd and how new research is allowing us to better understand why crossbreeding works. I will discuss where we have been and where we are going with DNA and genomic technologies. There will be a question and answer period, so please bring questions.

Register today at www.beefusa.org!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Red Angus Association of America Acquires Interest in Top Dollar Angus

Denver, Colorado – The Red Angus Association of America recently acquired a major share in Top Dollar Angus, Inc. RAAA President Kim Ford made the announcement at BrainTrust during the Red Angus activities held in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show.

"This is a tremendous day for the RAAA to become directly involved as an owner in Top Dollar Angus,” said Ford. “The Red Angus breed believes strongly in value-added genetic programs and has a long history of innovative thinking as a breed association. Top Dollar Angus is a pioneer in bringing distinct feeder calf marketing based on superior genetics to the U.S. beef business. We view this purchase as an investment that will bring greater rewards to cow-calf operations that consistently purchase high-genetic-merit bulls and match those genetics with good health management and nutrition programs. And if it's good for commercial cattlemen and women, it's positive for Red Angus."

Tom Brink, founder of Top Dollar Angus Inc., will retain an ownership interest, and will continue to serve as president. The firm will operate as a separate, stand-alone entity from the Association.

"In working with ranchers and farmers across the nation over the past two years, it is apparent that cattlemen with superior Red Angus and Angus beef genetics are actively seeking to differentiate their calves,” said Brink. “Top Dollar Angus helps accomplish that important task. By partnering with the RAAA, the program will be strengthened, become more visible, and be more able to successfully serve commercial ranchers and farmers. Those men and women raising the beef industry's best calves deserve a premium price, and Top Dollar Angus is now in an even better position to help make that happen."

A board of directors is now being selected and should be in place mid-February. The board will include representation from the Red Angus and Angus breeds, and other related segments of the beef industry.

In the future, Top Dollar Angus will seek to raise additional capital from a limited number of outside investors.

The Red Angus Association of America serves the beef industry by enhancing and promoting the competitive advantages of Red Angus and Red Angus-influenced cattle. RAAA provides commercial producers with the most objectively described cattle in the industry by seeking and implementing new technologies based on sound scientific principles that measure traits of economic importance. For more information, visit redangus.org.

Top Dollar Angus is a genetic certification and value-added marketing company assisting producers with high growth, high carcass value Angus and Red Angus feeder calves. Top Dollar Angus has a large network of participating feedlots, which understand the superior value of high-end Angus and Red Angus feeder calves and are willing to purchase these cattle at premium prices. Top Dollar Angus has certified cattle in 11 states since its inception in 2014.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Now HIRING! Looking for passionate graduate students and post doctoral fellows

My group is currently recruiting people to fill two graduate student positions. We will also be recruiting a researcher to fill a postdoctoral position in the coming year.

We are looking for candidates who are passionate about genetics, genomics, and research. Ideal candidates are creative, hard working (while maintaining a work/life balance), and self starters. Our group is strictly computational, so candidates should enjoy working on computers and analyzing data. Candidates should be willing to learn programming (typically in R or Python), or already have some programming experience.

We will soon have access to over 200,000 genotyped beef cattle with phenotypes and breeding values. We also have access to whole genome sequencing data from over 2,000 cattle. So, if you like working with lots of data, come join us! Our group uses population genomics to better understand the  history of cattle breeds and to inform future selection decisions. We are interested in local genetic adaption, fertility, inbreeding, and, of course, genomic prediction. With our collaborators, we also enjoy projects looking at the evolution of quail, dogs, and catfish.

Interested candidates are encouraged to apply to the Division of Animal Sciences, the Genetics Area Program, or the Informatics Institute. The deadline to apply to the Division of Animal Sciences and be considered for all fellowships if February 1st. The deadline to apply to the Genetics Area Program is January 15th. Deadline for the Informatics Institute is March 1st.

As a graduate mentor, my focus is helping you achieve your career goals. I have an open door policy and routinely touch base with my students. We have weekly joint lab meetings with Jerry Taylor's group. I have an annual meeting with each student to discuss career plans, 5 and 10 year plans, degree progress, professional development goals, etc. I would be happy to put you in touch with my current graduate students so they can tell you more about my mentorship style and what working in my group is like.

Please contact me if you would like more information about these positions.




The University of Missouri is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. To request ADA accommodations, please contact Amber Cheek, JD our Director of ADA Education and Accessibility at 573-884-7278 (V/TTY).


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

GENOMICS: Where are we going?

Photo by Lana Eaton, Eaton Charolais, Lindsay, Mont.
Cover by Molly Schoen
The June/July issue of the Charolais Journal contained an article I wrote.

Click this link to download a copy of the article.

In the article I discuss trends I see coming in the development of genomic prediction. Please provide feedback in the anonymous survey below.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pigs that are Resistant to Incurable Disease Developed at University of Missouri

Discovery about PRRS virus could save swine industry hundreds of millions of dollars; Exclusive deal signed with global leader in animal genetics

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus was first detected in the U.S. in 1987. Pigs that contract the disease have extreme difficulty reproducing, don’t gain weight and have a high mortality rate. To date, no vaccine has been effective, and the disease costs North American farmers more than $660 million annually. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Missouri, Kansas State University, and Genus plc have bred pigs that are not harmed by the disease.


Prather PRRS from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.


“Once inside the pigs, PRRS needs some help to spread; it gets that help from a protein called CD163,” said Randall Prather, distinguished professor of animal sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “We were able to breed a litter of pigs that do not produce this protein, and as a result, the virus doesn’t spread. When we exposed the pigs to PRRS, they did not get sick and continued to gain weight normally.”

For years, scientists have been trying to determine how the virus infected pigs and how to stop it. Previously, researchers believed that the virus entered pigs by being inhaled into the lungs, where it attached to a protein known as sialoadhesin on the surface of white blood cells in the lungs. However, two years ago Prather’s group showed that elimination of sialoadhesin had no effect on susceptibility to PRRS. A second protein, called CD163, was thought to “uncoat” the virus and allow it to infect the pigs. In their current study, Prather’s team worked to stop the pigs from producing CD163.

“We edited the gene that makes the CD163 protein so the pigs could no longer produce it,” said Kristin Whitworth, co-author on the study and a research scientist in MU’s Division of Animal Sciences. “We then infected these pigs and control pigs; the pigs without CD163 never got sick. This discovery could have enormous implications for pig producers and the food industry throughout the world.”

While the pigs that didn’t produce CD163 didn’t get sick, scientists also observed no other changes in their development compared to pigs that produce the protein.

The early-stage results of this research are promising. The University of Missouri has signed an exclusive global licensing deal for potential future commercialization of virus resistant pigs with the Genus, plc. If the development stage is successful, the commercial partner will seek any necessary approvals and registration from governments before a wider market release.

“The demonstration of genetic resistance to the PRRS virus by gene editing is a potential game changer for the pork industry,” said Jonathan Lightner, Chief Scientific Officer and Head of R&D of Genus plc. “There are several critical challenges ahead as we develop and commercialize this technology; however, the promise is clear, and Genus is committed to developing its potential. Genus is dedicated to the responsible exploration of new innovations that benefit the well-being of animals, farmers, and ultimately consumers.”

“At the end of our study, we had been able to make pigs that are resistant to an incurable, untreatable disease,” said Kevin Wells, co-author of the study and assistant professor of animal sciences at MU. “This discovery could save the swine industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year. It also could have an impact on how we address other substantial diseases in other species.”

In addition to Whitworth and Wells, Prather’s research team included collaborators at Genus plc, and Kansas State University. The study, “Gene-edited pigs are protected from porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus,” is being published in Nature Biotechnology this month.

Genus plc, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of Missouri’s Food for the 21stCentury Program provided funds for the research.

Friday, December 4, 2015

North American Limousin Foundation Releases Recalibrated GE-EPDs

By Joe Epperly, NALF assistant executive director

Limousin breeders and their commercial customers benefit greatly from new breeding and selection tools. The North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) has launched genomic-enhanced EPDs (GE-EPDs) with the fall 2015 international cattle evaluation. This provides GE-EPDs for all Limousin and Lim-Flex® animals that have completed DNA testing for genomic profiles.

A recalibration in cooperation with GeneSeek® and the Canadian Limousin Association has supplied genomic profiles on more than 4,500 Limousin and Lim-Flex animals. Molecular breeding values from either a high- or low-density genomic profile test are then blended into EPD calculations to produce GE-EPDs. This recalibration has led to the doubling of the number of animals included, the number of traits enhanced, and the genetic correlations.

The advantage to animals with GE-EPDs is increasing EPD accuracy values on many traits equivalent to having 8-20 progeny. This adds greatly to the predictability in selection for genetic merit of young, unproven seedstock. Animals that are genomic-enhanced will have the NALF GE-EPDs displayed on their animal detail screen and performance reports in the NALF-DigitalBeef platform. Traits that are genomic-enhanced are highlighted in yellow on these reports.

"We are excited to offer cutting edge tools for the selection of superior genetics to members and commercial producers purchasing Limousin and Lim-Flex animals. NALF has options for DNA testing that fit both your budget and needs for various traits," says Brittany Barrick, NALF director of registry and performance.

For questions regarding DNA testing options and procedures, contact Brittany Barrack, NALF director of registry and performance at 303-220-1693, ext. 57 or Brittany@NALF.org.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Heifer Sale Exceeds Expectations

by Eldon Cole, Livestock Specialist
Headquartered in Lawrence County, MO

The skidding cattle market the past few months resulted in considerable pessimism prior to the 33rd Show-Me-Select (SMS) Bred Heifer Sale at Joplin Regional Stockyards on November 20.  However, when the last of 293 heifers left the ring, the average price of $2477 brought smiles to most of the sellers.

The previous 32 sales results predicted an average heifer price just under $2000 per head.  That forecast is based on the week’s average price per head for a 550 pound, Medium and Large Frame, Number 1 Muscle steer at the Joplin and Springfield markets.  That average amounted to $1011 per head according to the Missouri Market Summary.

The SMS heifer average of $2477 divided by the steer average resulted in a 2.45:1 figure.  In the previous sales the highest ratio was 2.4:1.  Since the SMS sales began in 1997 at Joplin the smallest ratio was 1.65:1 in 1999.

There was a standing room only crowd at the sale along with 254 viewers on DV Auction.  Buyers came from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas and they took 110 (38%) heifers out of the Show-Me state.

The high-selling heifers for the evening was 5 head from Gilmore Farms, Aurora.  They were F1 Angus-Hereford heifers bred AI to TH 122 711 Victor 719T, a Polled Hereford.  The buyer was David Diggins, Moundville for $3200.  Gilmore topped the overall consignment average with a $2975 price on 8 heifers.

Circle S Chicks, Dusty and Valene Sturgeon, Starks City had the second high consignor average at $2838 for their 40 head of Red Angus heifers bred AI to Bieber Makin’ Hay 9913.  Two buyers each took 20 head, Harold Haskins, Diamond and John G. Harris, Russellville, AR.

John and Janet Massey, Aurora consigned 10, Angus-Simmental heifers that claimed the third high consignor average at $2684.  Following close behind was 38, Angus-Hereford cross heifers from John Wheeler, Marionville that averaged $2651.

The volume buyers of heifers were Harris who took 27 head to Arkansas.  Following him, Haskins ended up with 22 head.

As usual, repeat buyers were abundant with 21 of the 39 buyers being repeat customers. The repeat buyers bought 162 (55%) of the heifers. The 160 head of AI bred heifers sold for $2604 per head. Those bull bred averaged $2325, $279 behind. Only 10 head were tagged Tier Twos and they averaged $2800. Tier Two indicates the heifers were sired by AI bulls who had attained specified EPD accuracy ratings for calving ease direct, calving ease maternal, weaning weight, carcass weight and marbling.

Show-Me-Select cooperators are presently breeding or soon will breed heifers for the May 20 sale in southwest Missouri. For details on how to participate in the value added program contact your University of Missouri extension livestock specialist. Rules and regulations may be found at: http://agebb.missouri.edu/select/prgmreq.htm