Redrawing the DNA Map for Cattle and Turkeys
ARS researchers are developing better ways to improve animal production by using more precise techniques and tools, such as DNA markers, to map an animal's genetic makeup. The scientists are using single nucleotide polymorphisms (or SNPs, pronounced "snips") to look at the genetic makeup of dairy cattle and turkeys. After having applied the technology successfully in beef cattle production, ARS researchers identified 40,000 SNPs that were included in a new genotyping chip that was put into commercial production by Neogen Corporation. The Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding is now using this ARS tool as its standard for national evaluations of Holstein dairy cows.
Expanding this tool also led to a new genetic tool for turkey producers. Historically, genetic improvements for commercial turkeys were based on physical traits, such as body size and breast muscle development. ARS scientists, in partnership with poultry industry leaders and university collaborators, identified 5.49 million SNPs that are now being developed as a genomic evaluation tool for the turkey industry. During November 2015, Affymetrix, Inc. commercially released the Axiom® Turkey Genotyping Array. This new tool allows turkey producers to select for difficult-to-evaluate traits, such as those associated with immunity and reproduction. The array development was led by ARS researchers under a public-private partnership with Hendrix Genetics, Aviagen, and Affymetrix.