Saturday, February 11, 2017

Red Angus DNA Scores Align with Carcass Results

Denton, Texas — Cattlemen and women frequently ask if DNA scores are truly predictive of phenotypic results. A recent study completed by the Red Angus Association gathered DNA data on a set of Red Angus calves and followed the cattle through harvest, collecting phenotypic data. The results illustrated the Igenity® DNA scores accurately predicted carcass weight, marbling score and overall carcass value.

The cattle were raised and owned by Bob and Elaine Yackley of Onida, South Dakota, and fed at a custom feed yard. A total of 91 head of 2015-born steers comprised the group that was DNA tested with Igenity Silver and followed through harvest to obtain carcass data on each individual animal.

The top 25 head with the highest DNA scores for Average Daily Gain (ADG) and marbling were compared to the bottom 25 head, which exhibited the lowest combined DNA scores for the same two traits. Summarized results for the two groups are shown in the table.

This comparative analysis reveals that the top-DNA-scoring steers produced heavier carcass weights as a result of faster rates of gain (21-pound advantage). They also had higher average marbling scores and higher quality grades, with notably more upper-two-thirds Choice grade carcasses.




Even in a softened fed-cattle market, the difference in value between the two groups was $50.60 per head favoring the high-DNA-scoring steers. Weight and marbling make a big difference when selling cattle on a grid.

“These cattle had the right combinations of genetics and management in addition to being fed to the correct endpoint,” explained Gary Fike, RAAA director of commercial marketing. “The fact that out of the 50 head in this comparison, there was only one Yield Grade 4 in the low-DNA group and none among the top-DNA steers, is a testament to that.”

Fike, who organized and conducted the field study, further noted that these results demonstrate how DNA can be successfully used in commercial operations. “This is real-world data,” he said. “By using DNA testing and eliminating low-scoring animals for the traits of interest, producers can be confident they are building superior genetic value into their herds. That is why we recommend testing all replacement heifer candidates and culling low-scoring females before breeding."

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 innovative technologies based on sound scientific principles that measure traits of economic importance. For more information, visit redangus.org.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

AgFRONT: The Path To A Successful Technology Commercialization

By Elisa Marques

Over the last 15 years, I have seen successful launches and some real flops in the path to genomics and biotechnology commercialization.

If I were to think about the times we were successful, I would say that in almost all of those cases, we had mastered every single aspect of:


  1. Knowing Our Industry’s Players
  2. Understanding Our Audience
  3. Building a Team of Trusted Advisors

The examples mentioned here are specific to the livestock industry, but the strategy itself goes well beyond this industry.

For the full article visit the AgFRONT blog.



Thursday, January 26, 2017

eBEEF.org Hair shedding scores: A tool to select heat tolerant cattle


I have published a new fact sheet at eBEEF.org, titled "Hair shedding scores: A tool to select heat tolerant cattle."
Hair shedding scores are an easy and effective way to measure cattle’s ability to cope with heat stress. In this fact sheet, learn the how, when, and why of hair shedding scores.

As part of our work in matching a cow's genetics to her environment we have recruited 8,000 cattle to participate in a hair shedding genomic project. Producers collected hair shedding scores on their cattle and are sending us DNA samples for genomic testing.

This work was supported by the USDA-NIFA [grant number 2016-68004-24827, Identifying Local Adaptation and Creating Region-Specific Genomic Predictions in Beef Cattle].

Monday, January 9, 2017

Brangus Journal: Using Genomics in Your Herd

My second piece on genomic prediction was published in the Brangus Journal back in December.

The Dance Steps of Genomics Part II: Using Genomics in Your Herd

This piece discusses how we get started with genomic testing. What animals should we DNA test and when should we test them?

The first article in the series is available here

What do you think of the article? As always, your feedback is welcome.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Genomic Prediction Patented???

Hat tip to Dr. John Cole, USDA, and Jesse Hoff for bringing this to my attention on Twitter.

I need to make an important point: I am not a patent lawyer. I do not have a deep understanding of patent law and nothing in this post should be considered legal advice or council.

On November 8, 2016 Canada issued a patent to Ben Hayes and Michael Goddard for genomic prediction. Genomic prediction is estimating an animal's breeding value (i.e. genetic merit) using DNA variants. See the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website for more detailed information about the patent.

Meuwissen, Hayes and Goddard first published their work on genomic prediction in 2001.
Hayes and Goddard filed for a patent of the method on December 21, 2007 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
About 23 days later, the Illumina BovineSNP50 Beadchip, a DNA test that can test 54,000 DNA variants quickly and cheaply for cattle, was released at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference. This 50K SNP chip was developed, in part, to deploy genomic prediction in North American dairy and beef cattle breeds.
This USPTO patent has not been granted. See https://assignment.uspto.gov/patent/index.html#/patent/search/resultAbstract?id=20120144508&type=publNum. However, the Canadian patent has.

A few points I want to make.
In 1997, Nejati-Javaremi, Smith and Gibson published a method they call total allelic relationship, which is basically genomic prediction by a different name. They even state in their article that genetic markers (not the actual DNA variants responsible for differences, i.e. causal variants) could be used to measure total allelic relationship. This method is basically the single-step genomic prediction that we use today, and in my non-legal opinion this probably represents significant prior art to the work of Hayes and Goddard.

Further, the Hayes and Goddard patent is limited to populations in which the effective population size (a measure of diversity, the size of a randomly mating population) is smaller than 1,000. I believe it could be argued that genomic predictions of multiple-breed data sets could have effective population sizes larger than 1,000.

In related news, Meat and Livestock Australia is fighting a Cargill USA and Branhaven LLC that basically allows them to patent all cattle DNA, see "MLA launches Federal Court bovine genome patent fight" by James Nason. In another article by Sue NealesRob Banks, University of New England, stated the Cargill/Branhaven patent is “intellectually and morally indefensible”. With this patent, the amount of prior art is even more staggering, basically all of modern cattle genetics. I don't know where to start or end with this patent...


Cattle breeders have fought other patents of animal breeding technologies. In 2014, legal battles started between the American Simmental Association versus Leachman Cattle of Colorado, LLC and Verified Beef, LLC. Ultimately, in August of 2016, the American Simmental Association won these cases and the Leachman patents were overturned.

Unfortunately, I worry that the American Simmental Association and their genetic evaluation arm, International Genetic Solutions, may have additional legal battles on their hands. Of the twelve breed associations that are included in the IGS multiple-breed evaluation, five are Canadian associations. International Genetic Solutions recently announced that they have released a multiple-breed single-step genomic prediction of stayability. They will continue to release multiple-breed genomic evaluations for additional traits in the coming months. In Canada, these genomic predictions could be viewed as infringing upon the Hayes and Goddard patent. 

We live in interesting times in the beef breeding world... 

Here is hoping for more patents to be overturned.

UPDATE: 6 January 2016
I received word on Advantage Cattle from JohnD that the US patent on genomic prediction had been rejected just yesterday on January 5th. http://www.advantagecattle.com/forum/topic.asp?whichpage=24.6666666666667&TOPIC_ID=10783#166702 

Most of the US rejection cites a Monsanto patent application titled "Marker assisted best linear unbiased prediction (ma-blup) software adaptions for practical application for large breeding populations in farm animal species." This patent was abandoned as an incomplete application in April of 2012. From the USPTO website, "Abandoned means that the application is no longer pending and, thus, cannot mature into registration."
The examiner referred to the Monsanto patent application as prior art, and rejected the Hayes and Goddard patent application in the US. Perhaps the same arguments can be used in Canada to overturn the granted patent?

Also, I should point out that I believe both dairy and beef industries, especially in the affected countries, should band together to fight these patents. I do not think that the American Simmental Association should be asked to carry the water again on this issue. But, I do fear that they might be a target of litigation. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Beef Genetics Education Team Announces National Essay Contest: “What does it mean to be a beef breeder in the 21st century?”

Youth participating in 4-H, FFA, or junior beef breed organizations are encouraged to compete in a national essay contest. Essays should respond to the prompt “What does it mean to be a beef breeder in the 21st century?

The winning essay will be published in one of BEEF magazine’s online newsletters (e.g. BEEF Daily or BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly). The 2nd through 5th place essays will be published on A Steak in Genomics blog. We will award $500 for first, $300 for second, and $200 for third place in the contest. The first place winner will also receive 50 GeneMax Focus or PredicGEN tests.
Essays will be judged by beef genetics extension specialists, breed association staff, and trade publication staff.

Essays will be judged on their ability to encourage best practices and technology adoption by describing:
  • Trust and effectiveness of beef breeding best practices and technologies.
  • Simplicity of using technology.
  • The profit and sustainability outcomes of using best practices and technology.


Essays are required to be at least 600 words long but not longer than 3,000 words. Please submit contest entries at https://missouri.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9YwBWK2WvM7Tdsh. Entries are due February 15, 2017.


Thanks to our essay sponsors BEEF magazine, Zoetis, and GeneSeek.

This educational program and essay contest are part of the "Identifying Local Adaptation and Creating Region-Specific Genomic Predictions in Beef Cattle" funded by the USDA-NIFA, Grant No. 2016-68004-24827.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

AHA Educational Forum: AHA Creative Services

Sean Jersett, Christy Bengno, Julie Mais, Alison Marx, Caryn Vaught

Number one piece of advise for an advertiser:
Be aware of your sale dates! You need to have the deadlines for dates to go to the printer and when catalogs will be to the customers. You need to have your ducks in a row before the printing date.

How do you handle photography?
Photos need to be high resolution, print quality photos to look good in the catalog. "We need to have the photos identified so we know how to use them," Bengno said. Dropbox or email is a good way to send in the photos. Make sure that email allows for the photos to be sent as high resolution. If you have a lot of photos, Dropbox is much easier. Put the photos in Dropbox and then share the folder with the AHA staff. Make sure you notify the AHA staff that you have added photos to an existing shared photo.

When using phones, make sure your phone has a high quality camera on your phone and that you have your phone setting to the highest resolution possible (largest file size). If you don't change these settings, your phone will not take a high enough quality picture. If you have a 72 DPI photo, it will appear 4 times smaller than it should be in print.

What about breeders using Photoshop?
The Photoshop images are a great way for a producer to share their vision of the picture, but the actual Photoshop and other processing needs to be done by AHA staff to make sure that the requirements for print are meet. Send the raw photo, and the AHA staff will do the edits. Make sure that there is enough background space around the animal.

Advice for preparing an Hereford Journal ad?
Make sure that there is good communication. If the photos are not going to be ready in time, let the AHA staff know. "Too much information is often better than too little information," Marx said.

If an ad is made by a different publication, have the other organization communicate with the AHA staff to make sure the ad is prepared according to AHA specifications.


If preparing an ad, share colors that you don't like. Share items you would like to be included. Photos help a lot! Communication is key. "Some times I like a blank page, but at least tell me what you hate!" Jersett said.

What is the difference between a ride-along and other catalogs?
Figure out your target audience. If you are marketing to juniors showing heifers, including a ride along with the September issue that focuses on the Junior Nationals. If you are focusing on commercial cattlemen, printing in the tabloid publications is a great way to hit commercial ranchers.

The tabloids printed on paper are a cost savings for the AHA. If the commercial producer will fill in a card and send it back to the AHA, this allows them to send out the tabloid at no cost to the commercial producer.

How many clicks are you getting on banner ads?
Working on the back end, AHA staff can give you data on your specific banner ads.


Ag Teachers can request for a free subscription to the Hereford World. But, they need to request a new subscription each year.



Decker's Take Home Message
Progressive beef producers need to make sure they are doing a good job branding and marketing their cattle. To see a full return on investment in best practices and technology, producers need to be aggressively marketing their cattle. Working with the right creative services can really help.