Breeding & Genetics Symposium
By: Anne Zinn
On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Breeding & Genetics Symposium took place at the ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX. During this session, speakers were invited to discuss how genomic selection has changed livestock breeding. The symposium began with Ignacy Misztal of the University of Georgia, who presented on how the genomic selection process has been greatly simplified by using single-step GBLUP (ssGBLUP). This process automatically creates the index, can use any combination of male and female genotypes, and can account for preselection. It will also help eliminate double-counting and increase accuracy in larger data sets. Due to the simplicity and accuracy of the ssGBLUP process, it is often used for demonic selection by major companies in chicken, pigs, and beef. Nest, Dr. Tom Lawlor, US Holstein Association, spoke about genomic selection in the dairy industry, specifically the paradigm shift in the dairy industry through the last 10 years and how the incorporation of genomic selection has made the dairy industry more efficient and sustainable. Looking towards the future, Dr. Lawlor outlined how the single-step process could be implemented globally. To follow, Dr. Egbert Knol of the Topigs Norsvin Research Center, discussed the pros and cons of genomic selection in the pig industry. He explained that while there are numerous benefits, including the ability to adapt pigs to the local market and stay competitive against other meat markets, there are also significant concerns regarding long-term, worldwide sustainability, the consolidation of companies, and the decreasing number of sire and dam lines.
Following discussions of the pig and dairy industry, Dr. Daniel W. Moser of Angus Genetics Inc. presented on the current achievements and future directions of genomic selection in the beef industry. Moser explained how genomic testing of beef cattle has evolved from applications in research to routine practice and how the use of genetic evaluations within the American Angus Association has led to large-scale genotyping of Angus cattle. Benefits currently include increased accuracy of genetic prediction for young animals and future benefits include identification and selection against embryonic lethal alleles, better characterization of inbreeding, and selection tools for additional traits relevant to unique environments. Following this discussion, Dr. Makram Geha, Corteva Agriscience, gave a presentation on the incorporation of genomic information into the plant breeding pipeline and how this has helped Corteva improve the efficiency and output of breeding systems and provide customers with innovative and sustainable seed product solutions.
To conclude the symposium, Dr. Jack C. Deckers, Iowa State University, discussed the impact of new technologies on livestock breeding and what may come next. As discussed, genomic selection allows for an increase and optimization the size and structure of usable data, but more information on QTL is required to reduce the “data noise” and to continue providing additional opportunists for creating new beneficial genetic variation with large effects, like disease resistance. Deckers also discussed epigenetic manipulation of embryos, precision phenotyping and precision animal breeding as other genomics technologies on the horizon.
Throughout the symposium, the audience was engaged and asked detailed, thought-provoking questions.