ASGGN Country Representative

Steve Miller             

GRA livestock Research Group Country Contact

Organisation:            Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Richard Butts          

Canadian Cattle Genome Project

The genetic sequence of the first cow was published in 20091.This milestone was achieved through an international collaboration with 300 scientists in 25 countries and took six years to complete. The cow sequenced was a Hereford, a breed primarily used for beef that originated in the United Kingdom but that is now used in Canada and throughout the world. Additional breeds have also been sequenced, including Holstein, Angus, Jersey, Limousin, Norwegian Red and Brahman . This sequence information can be analyzed directly, used for comparing animals within a breed, or for comparing animals across breeds. One category of genetic difference frequently used for comparison is Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms or SNPs. SNPs are used as genetic markers to track the ancestral heritage of regions of DNA or of individual animals. SNPs also can be used to predict the likelihood that a given animal will possess an individual or a series of desirable trait(s). The latter can only occur once a SNP or a collection of SNPs is linked to a particular trait.

In this project, genotypes (the pattern of important SNPs), from a wide range of beef and dairy breeds will be used to develop accurate genomic prediction equations to assess the genetic potential of an individual animal. This information will, in turn, be used to make genetic improvement in Canada’s cattle populations. Genotyping a large number of animals is necessary to attain acceptable levels of reliability, and can only be achieved through international collaboration. Low-cost tests will be developed that allow an animal’s entire genome to be inferred from a relatively small number of SNPs, thereby giving valuable information as to its breeding value. The project will work with scientists (and data) from across the world, as well as leading Canadian seedstock organisations.

Project overview figure edited

As shown in the figure, the project consists of three interconnected research streams:

  1. Identification of the social and economic benefits and costs of using genomic technologies in livestock improvement;
  2. Development of procedures to provide low-cost but accurate genome-wide selection (GWS) methodologies for breeders;
  3. Research will be undertaken to allow GWS to be used in Canadian herds for particularly difficult yet valuable traits, supported by establishment of infrastructure and other requirements that facilitate industry utilisation of GWS.

The project will deliver benefits for breeders by providing selection methodologies and it will also lay the foundation for the next generation of technologies, including improved capability for ensuring the environmental sustainability of beef and dairy cattle production.


Nov 6, 2012
Steve Miller


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