Past Projects

Economic Research

Ontario Carcass Improvement Project

Research Lead: Dr. Steve Miller , University of Guelph

Executive Summary

  • Genomic selection technologies and advanced genetic selection tools will enable seedstock producers to develop a unique genetic product that is in demand in Ontario and worldwide.  Immediate results from this project have demonstrated that a panel of SNP can predict a significant amount of the genetic variation in beef tenderness.  This SNP panel is commercially available and presents a real opportunity for the industry to target a beef product with enhanced tenderness through 2 means.  Firstly, the primary breeding sector can perform Marker Assisted Selection (MAS)  in that they can select breeding stock with enhanced tenders through analysis of a DNA sample such as hair or blood.  Secondly, branded beef programs can select cattle for their programs and manage different genotype groups through Marker Assisted Management (MAM).    Genomic tools will include new genetic marker tests related to feed efficiency and meat quality traits as well as the validation of available tests.  Information on genetic SNP tests will contribute to the prediction of genetic merit, where the appropriate emphasis is given to the marker information in relation to the other performance and pedigree information.  These advanced genomic selection tools will be afforded primarily due the extensive genotyping of the 1200 animals for 50,000 SNP each with extensive efficiency and product quality traits categorized in the beef resource population database.   
  • The development and implementation of genomic technologies and advanced genetic selection tools relies on a comprehensive database system as well as a data exchange system and suite of analytical tools as developed in this project.
  • Consumers will benefit from an improved beef product that is a functional food.  The content of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid) will be improved through nutrition and management and genetic means.  Market share lost to other commodities will be regained by addressing consumer concerns for high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids found in beef and by decreasing the use of synthetic hormones (implants) and antibiotics.   The feeding trials performed as part of this study provides important information in regards to forage feeding.  Also, the connection to the DNA along with the extensive product quality attributes allows for the linkages between genetic differences and product healthfulness to be established.
  • Feeding strategies will be recommended to the feedlot and cow/calf sectors to improve feed efficiency through feeding trials performed in both cows and feedlot cattle as part of this project.  Methods for genetic selection of efficient animals is being developed as panels of SNP are being evaluated and developed to predict differences in feed efficiency.  Factors identified as significantly contributing to feed efficiency are being used to target candidate genes for genomic selection technologies.  These tools combined with information gleaned from the genome scan of 50,000 SNP will increase the competitiveness of the Ontario Beef Producer.     Advanced reproductive technologies such as improved fixed time Artificial Insemination (AI) procedures have been evaluated, further demonstrating the application to Ontario Beef producers.  Success in collecting young bulls for use through AI provides an example of expedited genetic progress through a reduction in the generation interval and high selection intensity made possible through more extensive use of identified elite young sires.  These reproductive technologies become more valuable when harnessed together with the developed genomic technolgies where elite young sires can be identified earlier.

Back to Past Projects