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$20M supports livestock genomics research projects


Edmonton, AB – Genome Alberta says it is leading a group of funding partners on two large-scale genomics projects in the livestock sector. These projects build on Genome Alberta’s Applied Livestock Genomics Program which was launched in Dec 2010.

“Application of Genomics to improve Swine Health and Welfare” is a $12.4 million research project lead by Graham Plastow from the University of Alberta, John Harding from the University of Saskatchewan and Bob Kemp from PigGen Canada.

With the mapping and sequencing of the pig genome, scientists have an opportunity to apply genomic-based tools to the pork industry. Similar tools are already part of the Canadian cattle industry and have revolutionized the dairy industry around the world. Researchers will apply genomics to help reduce the impact of two of the most common diseases in commercial pig production – Porcine Circovirus Associated Disease and Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome. Scientists are studying mechanisms in pigs that make them genetically less susceptible to these diseases, providing important new diagnostic tools for breeders and expanding our understanding of disease control mechanisms. This work will lead to new strategies for disease control in addition to new drugs, improved vaccines, and a safer food chain by reducing the use of antibiotics.

“Whole Genome selection through Genome Wide Imputation in Beef Cattle” is an $8.2 million research project led by Stephen Miller, University of Guelph, and Alberta researcher Stephen Moore who has recently been appointed as director, Centre for Animal Science at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Canadian researchers were directly involved with a major international undertaking to sequence the bovine genome and are now at the forefront of developing genomic selection techniques to boost genetic improvement in cattle. This project will target traits that are difficult to improve through conventional means. Low-cost tests are being developed that will allow an animal’s genome to be inferred from a relatively small number of genetic markers, giving valuable information about its breeding value at a very early age. In addition, the project will examine the potential market barriers for adoption of these genomic technologies. This will bring immediate benefits to breeders, enhance product traceability and lay the foundation for the next generation of technologies aimed at environmentally sustainable production.

Funders for the projects include Genome Canada, Genome Alberta, the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, PigGen Canada, Genome Prairie, an international consortium led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Western Economic Development, and a number of international agencies and organizations.