Monday, January 29, 2018

Mizzou Recruiting Beef Cattle Extension Specialist

Position: Assistant Extension Professor of Animal Sciences, non-tenure track 100% Extension

Responsibilities: The person is expected to develop a nationally recognized education and engagement program in cow-calf production with emphasis on reproduction and management of the beef cow. This includes training regional extension livestock specialists, veterinarians and veterinary students, and allied industry personnel, interacting with cattle producers and agribusiness firms, and providing support for the National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics in Beef Cattle.
Qualifications: The individual must have a Ph.D. in Animal Science and an extensive knowledge of the beef cattle industry. Experience with and a strong interest in working with beef cattle producers and allied industries is necessary. Must be able to interact and collaborate effectively with faculty in reproductive biology and genomics.
Location: The Division of Animal Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri
Salary: Commensurate with training and experience.
Application Procedure: Please apply online via Human Resources https://hrs.missouri.edu/find-a-job. Applications will be accepted until position is filled. Applications should include a personal resume, a narrative summary outlining goals and qualifications, transcripts and names of three persons who may be contacted by the committee to request letters of reference.



Benefit Eligibility: This position is eligible for University benefits. The University offers a comprehensive benefits package, including medical, dental and vision plans, retirement, and educational fee discounts. For additional information on University benefits, please visit the Faculty & Staff Benefits website at http://www.umsystem.edu/totalrewards/benefits.
Equal Employment Opportunity: The University of Missouri is an equal access, equal opportunity, affirmative action employer that is fully committed to achieving a diverse faculty and staff. For more information, call the Associate Vice Chancellor of Human Resource Services/Affirmative Action officer at 573-882-4256.
The University of Missouri is fully committed to achieving the goal of a diverse and inclusive academic community of faculty, staff and students. We seek individuals who are committed to this goal and our core campus values of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence. To request ADA accommodations, please call Human Resource Services at 573-882-7976. TTY users, please call through Relay Missouri, 1-800-RELAY (735-2966) or en Español at 1-800-520-7309. MU makes available to applicants a security report of crimes that occurred on campus over the previous three years. For a copy of this report, contact the University Police Department at (573) 882-5923 or access their web site at: http://www.mupolice.com/.

Apply for the position here:
https://erecruit.umsystem.edu/psp/tamext/COLUM/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM_FL.HRS_CG_SEARCH_FL.GBL?Page=HRS_APP_JBPST_FL&Action=U&SiteId=9&FOCUS=Applicant&SiteId=9&JobOpeningId=25502&PostingSeq=1

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Searching for Environmental Adaptation in Beef Cattle

By Troy Rowan and Jared Decker, PhD, University of Missouri
Reprinted with permission of the ASA SimTalk magazine, from the Late Fall 2017 issue.

The United States is home to diverse climates and geographies. Over the past 150 years, beef cattle have found their way into nearly every one of these unique environments. Some cattle thrive in particular environments, while others struggle. Animals well-suited to an environment performed well and are selected to stay in herds. Poorly-suited animals are culled. As a result, selection occurred on traits that improved cattle performance in different environments. Now, resulting from this selection, there may be a significant amount of region-specific genetic diversity, even within the same breed. In a USDA-funded research project, we are looking to find the DNA variants responsible for this environmental adaption. We will then use these variants to create geographic region-specific genomic predictions.

Local Adaptation
Animals that are poorly adapted to their local environment are less efficient and more expensive to maintain. Most previous local adaptation research has focused on heat tolerance in Bos indicus influenced cattle. Work has only begun on identifying the genetic components of issues like cold tolerance, hair shedding, altitude adaptability, tolerance to pathogens, and other region-specific stressors in Bos taurus cattle populations.

The potential economic impact of this research to the beef cattle industry is substantial. A 1993 study predicted that animals poorly adapted to toxic fescue cost the beef industry close to $1 billion per year. Toxic fescue tolerance is only one slice of the local adaptation pie. Other environmental stressors have similar economic impacts. If breeders can tap into genetic potential for tolerance to environmental stressors and animals are optimized for production in their specific geographic regions, the beef industry could save billions of dollars each year.

Detecting Region-Specific Selection
Much like natural selection in wild populations, region-specific selection occurs on existing genetic variation that may be beneficial in one environment, but neutral or unfavorable in another. Over several generations, this beneficial variation becomes more common within a regional population. Put simply, animals that are well-adapted to their regional environments produce successful offspring that remain in the gene pool. Poorly-adapted animals in most cases produce poorly and are culled from their respective herds. These poorly-adapted animals have minimal contributions to future generations. Advancements in genomic tools have made it possible for this diversity to be categorized. We can compare differences between regional populations on the DNA base pair level.


 


Figure 1. Hypothetical example of local adaptation to different regions of the United States.

The example in Figure 1 illustrates how region-specific genomic changes are detected.

1) A genetic variant (in this example a SNP) is introduced into two regional populations at the same frequency (1 in every 10 animals will have it).
2) In one environment (Missouri), this SNP has a favorable impact on cattle performance. In another (Florida), it has no effect.
3) Over many generations, cattle possessing the favorable SNP in Missouri are preferentially selected. The SNP’s neutral effect in Florida means that no selection occurs on cattle with the variant.
4) Selection over many generations in Missouri drives up the frequency of the SNP in the population, while it stays the same in Florida.
5) Genomic analyses compare hundreds of thousands of markers and their frequencies between populations. Variants showing major differences in frequency between different regional populations are likely under selection.

Ongoing Work
At the University of Missouri, we are using this idea to identify genetic variation within breed populations that could affect how well adapted a cow is to her particular local environment. With the help of the American Simmental Association, and two other major breed associations, we have assembled a geographically diverse set of over 37,000 animals with genotypes. We will use these samples to start exploring region-specific selection. Using 30-year normal values for temperature, precipitation, and elevation, we have divided the United States into 9 distinct “climate zones” (Figure 2). Animals are divided into subpopulations based on their climate zone. Tests for selection will be applied to see if certain genetic variants are being selected in particular regions, but not in others. A geographic distribution of the Simmental animals in the study and their climate zones is shown in Figure 3. Preliminary data analysis has identified a number of DNA variants (SNPs) in Simmental populations that appear to be under selection in specific regions of the U.S.
 

Figure 2. Nine climate regions of the Continental United States developed based on 30-year normal temperature, precipitation, and elevation. 


Figure 3. Geographic distributions of Simmental animals from the study (9,950 total). Each dot represents a unique zip code. Dot color corresponds with the climate zone in which that zip code resides. Dot size is representative of the number of animals at each zip code. 


Upon discovering variants that are under region-specific selection, we not only gain an understanding of the biology behind local adaptation, but we can begin using these SNPs to train region-specific genomic predictions. These tools have the potential to re-rank animals based on the region in which they will be used. This will provide producers with the most tailored predictors of how an animal’s offspring might perform in their local environment. Beef cattle are subject to the full brunt of environmental stressors. Controlling a beef cow’s environment on range or pasture is impossible. But, ensuring that our animals are genetically well-equipped for their environment is essential.


About the Authors:
Troy Rowan is a PhD student at the University of Missouri. Troy attended the Beef Improvement Federation Symposium in Athens, Georgia in June of 2017 with funds from an ASA Walton-Berry Award to the University of Missouri. Jared Decker is a researcher and beef genetics extension specialist at the University of Missouri.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Youth Win Essay Contest: “What does it mean to be a beef breeder in the 21st century?”

We are happy to announce the winners of our national youth essay contest.
Youth responded to the question, “What does it mean to be a beef breeder in the 21st century?”

1st: Grace Erickson, Bolivar, MO, Bolivar FFA, Woodlawn 4-H, Missouri Junior Simmental Association, American Junior Simmental Association
See her essay at BEEF Daily.

2nd: Jackson Barry, Canton, MO, Canton FFA, Shamrock 4-H in Clark County

3rd: Jacob Jones, Stillwater, OK, Stillwater FFA, International Junior Brangus Breeders Association, Oklahoma Junior Cattlemen's Association

4th: Brooke Falk, Harveyville, KS, North American Limousin Juniors Association

5th: Brooklynn Salo, Laramie, WY,  Snowy Range FFA, Albany County 4-H

6th: Wesley Denton, Blue Rapids, KS, Valley Heights FFA, National Junior Hereford Association, Wide Awake 4-H Club

7th: Garrett Stanfield, Manchester, OH, American Junior Simmental Association


Grace Erickson's essay will be appearing on the BEEF magazine website. Watch for other winning essays here at A Steak in Genomics.

We look forward to watching these youth become leaders in the beef industry.

We will soon be announcing our 2018 essay contest.

Special 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.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Transferring Technology: Division of Animal Sciences receives grant to develop The National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics (NCARG)

Written by Logan Jackson
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

The Division of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) boasts many strengths, including its vast research and work with beef cattle reproduction and genetics. The faculty, who have responsibilities not only in research, but also in teaching, extension and economic development, are experts in taking their findings and sharing them with farmers, ranchers and the Missouri community as a whole.

beef research and teaching farm_south farm_summer_0013
With the help of a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the division will be able to expand on those leadership opportunities.

The grant, through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will be used to develop The National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics (NCARG) in Beef Cattle. The goal of NCARG will be to promote the economic impact of the technologies Mizzou Animal Sciences faculty have developed and are using every day. The focus is on giving farmers and ranchers the answer to the question – “What is the return on investment if I invest in reproductive or genomic technologies?”

“We’re not just trying to fill people’s heads with new knowledge – it’s more about lighting a fire,” said Jared Decker, an Extension beef geneticist at Mizzou. “We’re focused on helping farmers and ranchers understand the technology, but, more than that, to trust the technology and identify ways they can use it. We want to educate producers and help them take that next leap.”

The multi-disciplinary grant is in partnership with the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. NCARG will have a big focus on continuing education for veterinarians, including educational and training opportunities for veterinary students, graduate students, farmers, ranchers and allied industry professionals.

“This center again underscores the collaborative environment between schools and programs that exist at Mizzou to advance training for veterinary and animal science students, and research that benefits Missouri stakeholders,” said College of Veterinary Medicine Interim Dean Carolyn Henry, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology).

The idea for a center of this type has been discussed amongst faculty in the Division of Animal Sciences for the past few years. David Patterson and Mike Smith, both professors of reproductive physiology, have taught numerous full-day sessions at American Veterinary Medical Association meetings. With all of the programs in place at MU, Patterson and Smith had many discussions on ways to share that research with not only Missouri, but on a national level.

David Patterson, Division of Animal Sciences
“Our reproductive and genomic research is so closely tied – and both are great strengths within our division,” Patterson said. “A center of this nature is the logical next step for our division. With beef cattle, there is so much technology that could help operations. We want to help transfer that technology to industry participants at all levels.”

Patterson has led the reproductive extension work in the Division of Animal Sciences, with Decker leading the genetic extension efforts.

There will be a big focus on the economic impact of using these technologies as well. Scott Brown, an assistant extension professor in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, will lend his expertise in agricultural and applied economics to the center.

“The returns available to farmers from adopting these technologies will ultimately drive their use, and it is critical we show the increase in profitability that can result from integrating reproductive and genetic technologies in commercial herds,” Brown said.

NCARG already has received numerous letters of support from veterinary medical professionals, U.S. beef breed associations, pharmaceutical houses, genomic testing companies, industry consultants, the artificial insemination industry, branded beef and feeder calf programs, and state agencies, organizations and companies.

“I think it really reflects how people value research in reproduction and genetics at Mizzou,” Decker said. “I think they value the extension and educational expertise at Mizzou as well. The Division of Animal Sciences has worked extremely hard to build relationships with each of these organizations and groups, and it’s exciting to see them offer their full support.”

NCARG is still in the beginning stages of development. The group is seeking a location to house NCARG and is continuing to search for partnerships.

“We’re taking the model we’ve developed in Missouri over the past 20 years and making it a national center,” Decker said. “We’re hoping to spread the model of integrating research and extension in genetics, reproduction and economics – and putting that together. That’s worked really well in Missouri. Now, let’s spread it nationally.”

Along with Patterson, Decker, Smith and Brown, Bill Lamberson, Scott Poock, Thomas Spencer and Jeremy Taylor were part of the development of the grant.

Also, see coverage from Brownfield Ag News "MU: NATIONAL CENTER ON BEEF REPRODUCTION AND GENOMICS". 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

In Memory of Dr. Richard Willham

Dr. Richard Willham passed away the weekend of December 31, 2017.

Dr. Richard Willham was a leader in the development of EPDs.

Watch this video produced by Angus TV.


Also, visit the American Society of Animal Science Taking Stock blog to read more about Dr. Willham's life and work.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

NCBA, Cattle Genetics Experts Team Up For 2018 Genetic Webinar Series

Four sessions will help producers better utilize genetics in beef production


Cattle genetics will be the focus of a new set of webinars to help cattlemen and women better use the tool in their operations.  The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is teaming up with six genetics specialists from across the country to offer the NCBA Cattlemen’s Genetics Webinar Series, which will kick off Jan. 18, 2018.

Titled “Fake News: EPDs Don’t Work,” the January webinar will be followed by sessions in February, March and April that explore other aspects of genetic utilization that will give cattle producers a knowledge boost on cattle selection and breeding.

Providing expertise to producers through the webinar series is the eBEEF team, a group of six genetic specialists from five academic institutions that have invested time and resources in the advancement of the cattle industry through genetics. Members of the team are: Darrh Bullock, Ph.D., University of Kentucky; Jared Decker, Ph.D., University of Missouri; Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D., University of California-Davis; Matt Spangler, Ph.D., University of Nebraska; and Megan Rolf, Ph.D., and Bob Weaber, Ph.D., Kansas State University.

The Cattlemen’s Genetics Webinar Series is being coordinated by the NCBA producer education team. The January session on EPDs will feature Van Eenennaam and Spangler, with other members of the eBEEF team conducting future webinars.

According to Josh White, NCBA executive director of producer education, the genetics webinar series is an extension of NCBA educational webinars started several years ago. “Our model has been to do six or seven timely and seasonal webinars a year, geared to times that producers are looking at specific production practices,” White said. “We noticed that some of our largest viewership has been when we focused on genetics in the spring. We are excited to be partnering with the eBEEF team to expand the offering in 2018.”

Darrh Bullock said the eBEEF team was created to expand the understanding of genetics beyond their own states. “Genetics specialists are a limited resource,” he said. “Even though we provide education in our own states, we feel an obligation to provide more education on a national basis, recognizing that many states don’t have genetics specialists.”

Bullock said one of the creations of the eBEEF team is a website on eBeef.org where cattlemen can find out much of what they need to know about the genetics of beef cattle, featuring videos, factsheets, frequently-asked-questions and other resources. The new opportunity to work with NCBA on the webinar, he said, is an extension of the team’s outreach.

“We have worked informally with NCBA for years, through Cattlemen’s College and individual webinars on genetics,” he said. “This new program is an opportunity to provide cattlemen with more information in advance of the upcoming breeding season, getting them up-to-date genetics information. There really is no better way to get the word out about this topic than through NCBA and the educational programs they coordinate. They reach many cattlemen.”

Bullock said the upcoming webinar series is geared for any producer who would benefit from genetics knowledge, from the experienced seedstock breeder to someone who might be new to the cattle industry and needs to better understand genetics.

Cattle producers are invited to join the webinars live, or access recordings of them following the sessions. For more information on the NCBA Cattlemen’s Genetics Webinar Series go to the producer education tab of the NCBA.org website. Recordings of previous webinars are also available on the site.