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Beef feed efficiency breakthrough

Other markers for tenderness and marbling in the resulting meat have also been identified.
, and for tenderness and marbling in the resulting meat.

A team of CSIRO livestock industry scientists led by molecular geneticist Dr Bill Barendse took 18 months to identify the feed efficiency markers. The work was a collaboration involving the Cooperative Research Centre for Cattle and Beef Quality, Meat and Livestock Australia and commercial partner Genetic Solutions.

Genetic Solutions has commercialised the four independently acting DNA markers into a test for recognising the crucial production trait of converting feed into saleable meat.

GeneSTAR Feed Efficiency 4 will be marketed by Genetic Solutions, the Brisbane company which has introduced DNA technology as a herd improvement tool to cattle producers around Australia and across the world.

Genetic Solutions managing director Dr Gerard Davis said the new markers isolated by CSIRO scientists would be hugely significant.

“Being able to identify animals which will deliver superior performance before they go onto a feeding regime will be a real profit driver for the beef industry – especially the lot feeding sector,” Dr Davis said.

The team scanned the whole bovine genome in their search for markers influencing feed efficiency before narrowing down to the four that comprise the new test. Further work is underway, including in the new Cooperative Research Centre for Beef Genetic Technologies, to identify further markers for this important trait.

Dr Barendse said feed conversion efficiency was a complex trait with overall performance influenced by a number of factors including the animal’s metabolism, growth rate, body mass and appetite. “By coming up with a number of markers relating to feed efficiency, the result will be very meaningful for livestock producers.”

“The ability to extract the maximum amount of meat from a kilo of feed is a significant profit driver for the beef industry,” he said.

Although the measurements for feed efficiency were taken with feedlot animals, he said it made no difference whether the cattle were fed grain or were simply grazing grass.

“Although what they’re taking is more concentrated, there is no difference between grain fed and grass fed – because what we’re looking at is the metabolic rate. It’s the size of the engine -how efficiently they are converting their food,” he said.

The feed efficiency markers underwent rigorous validation prior to commercial release. They were thoroughly performance tested using data from almost 1500 cattle across seven major beef breeds. They join two other sets of four genetic markers – for tenderness and marbling – that Genetic Solutions has developed into tests.

“We now have available 12 markers influencing three key production traits — beef feed conversion, marbling and tenderness which will be packaged together,” Dr Davis said.

“There is nothing like this available anywhere else in the world. The future of beef DNA technology has arrived.”

Genetic Solutions has signed an agreement with US-based Bovigen Solutions to manufacture and market its GeneSTAR technology throughout North and South America. The Australian company will focus on extending its reach through the Asia-Pacific area and also into Europe.

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