Current Perspective

Q. Currently several companies are marketing DNA tests for use in selection.  What questions do you have regarding these tools; and who do you think should provide the answers to these questions?

“Validation” is a term frequently used in association with DNA selection tools.  Validation is the independent confirmation or rejection of a DNA test.  Validation attempts to answer the question: “Does the test work as claimed?”  In most applications this means that the scientists conducting the validation studies have no vested interest in the DNA test under consideration and that the animal populations used are different from the populations used to develop the test.  The animal populations needed to conduct validation studies for an ever-increasing number of DNA tests will require tremendous capital investment.
Q. How important do you think validation is to the use of DNA selection tools?
Q. Do you think public research institutions should have an ongoing role in validating new DNA tests?

For traits which have EPD available, the genetic information provided by DNA tests is NOT independent of the information provided by EPD.  The information overlaps, but we do not know by how much.  In the near future, we anticipate that statistical methods will be available to combine DNA test information with pedigree and phenotypic information in the computation of EPD and their associated accuracies.
Q. How important do you think having a single measure of genetic merit based on all sources of information (i.e., EPD based on DNA, pedigree, and phenotypic information) will be to the genetic improvement of US beef cattle?

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  1. Neb Cowman said

    I am all for DNA testing for improvement but how do we create a market where genetically superior feeders or fats are worth more?

  2. bifdna said

    Over the past 10 years, and particularly the last 5 years, the feeder calf market has spread out. Cattle Fax reports a consistent $25/cwt price spread for same-weight calves sold in the same market at the same time. This is due to many factors, including buyer’s confidence in the genetics of the cattle — but also health, weaning, age and source verification, etc. As for fed cattle, there are numerous carcass merit grids available that spread the price on fed cattle from top to bottom by at least $4 – $5 /cwt on a live basis. Add another $25/hd for Age and Source Verification and I think it can be argued that the market is rationalizing and is beginning to reward superior cattle while discounting sub-commodity cattle.

    The main question here is: do DNA tests offer significant assurance that one set of cattle is significantly more valuable than another based on differences in genotype as measured by DNA tests?

  3. Sam Johnson said

    Value! What is the value of DNA information if the cost can not be recovered via production efficiencies for the producer (Net Feed Intake of RFI) or in added value of the calf or carcass sold (tenderness). Testing for some traits may be recovered if the producer retains the animal thru to the end where the improvement, if any, may be recovered. This is the case for Marbling, Yield, Feed efficiency and so on. Getting back that same value is you sell the calf is more problematic. Here validation is important so that the buyer can be convinced by reliable sources or proof that the value is there and he then has some assurance that the premium paid, if any, can be recovered

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