Genomics Projects


In a major industry announcement, the British Limousin Cattle Society have joined forces with Anglo Beef Processors and the Scottish Agricultural College to carry out an exciting new project exploring the use of the latest genetic and imaging technologies to improve carcass traits in cattle. The project, described as “a milestone in UKbeef production”, will have a main goal of improving beef carcass characteristics and delivering those benefits throughout the whole supply chain.

In what is a £1.5 Million project, the British Limousin Cattle Society will contribute approximately £200,000 over the three-year term with work due to commence in October this year.  Funding support for the project has been obtained through the Government’s Technology Strategy Board and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.  The award through the funding bodes is part of a total of more than £4.5m being invested in 11 innovative research and development projects using genomics-based technologies.

The three way project between BLCS,ABP, and SAC is entitled ‘Utilising Sequence Data and Genomics to Improve Novel Carcass Traits in Beef Cattle’

The basic objective will be to identify the contribution that genetics makes to differences between animals in various carcass attributes and then to identify those sires expected to produce superior offspring for these attributes. In this case the phenotypes will be carcass characteristics measured in the abattoir using video image analysis (VIA) data from the latestVIAmachines installed inABPabattoirs.DNAsamples will then be used to calculate a tool (UK SNP key) to predict the genetic part of an animals performance (GBV ) without having the extra work of recording it.

The process of genomic selection consists of 2 main parts:

1) Creating a UK SNP Key from a reference population that have good phenotypes. This will involve the following steps:

  • Taking a tissue sample from sires with offspring that have phenotype records and then extractingDNA.
  • Constructing a SNP Key to identify superior animals for carcass traits and individual muscle groups.
  • Calculating genomic breeding values for animals in the reference population.

2) Calculate genomic breeding values for young animals that have no phenotypes. This will involve the following steps:

  • Taking DNAsamples from young animals and having them genotyped to produces SNPs.
  • Using the SNP Key to allocate breeding values to SNP markers along theDNA. The values of each SNP marker will then be added up to establish the animal’s genomic merit.

Once the whole process is up and running, individual beef farmers will be able to get a genomic breeding value on their young animals.  This will be done by submitting aDNAsample to BLCS who in turn will attend to the business of genotyping and sending to SAC/EGENES for calculation. In time, this will be through a web portal that is currently under development.

It is anticipated that the project will produce long-term added value benefits for both British Limousin breeders and customers including:

–           Accelerated genetic improvement in economically important traits.

–           The relation of carcass data back to the breeding animal.

–           Accurate selection of beef animals meeting the market specification

–           Introduction of specific carcass EBVs for retail yield, loin length, eye muscle area

–           Ability to more easily identify genetically superior stock

–           Building a platform to introduce genomic EBVs and genomic selection

–           Differentiation of theLimousinproduct in the beef and pedigree market place

–           Additional business opportunities connected with abattoirs and retailers.

There will also be significant benefits toABPand through them to their customers and suppliers. These will mainly focus on identifying the precise retail value of each carcass and in providing high volume phenotype for economically important traits for both management and genomic selection. Specific benefits may include

  • Fine detail of carcass makeup
  • The ability to provide clearer market signals on desirable carcass characteristics back to suppliers
  • Stimulus to provide more carcasses in specification
  • Less waste in supply

Commenting on the project BLCS Chief Executive Iain Kerr said; “This is the highest level of funding in a project by the BLCS to date and represents a major investment in theLimousinbreed’s future development.  It is an innovative and dynamic project and by focusing breeding on carcass traits of economic importance it will add real value across the supply chain and drive demand for Limousin genetics.  Genomic selection and technologies offer such opportunity to take genetic improvement and production efficiency to new sustained levels.  As such, the Society is delighted to be a leading organization in this project.”

SAC/Egene’s Dr Mike Coffey added: “This is an exciting time inUKbeef production and genomic evaluations. This project enables theUKto keep up with large international efforts being applied in this area of development, especially inAustraliaandUSA, our main beef producing competitors. It provides the opportunity to encourage greater stakeholder involvement in breeding goals by including commercial beef producers in the information flow. There will be increased output forLimousinsired Beef especially in traits of greater economic value such as loin length and carcass value. Payment structures for beef animals could change giving a greater reward for carcasses of higher value cuts at the same carcass weight.”