Hunt for genes for feed efficiency and meat quality in beef

Dr Chen with the new micro-array scanner.

Dr Chen with the new micro-array scanner.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is ramping up efforts to identify genes in beef cattle that are responsible for economically important traits such as feed efficiency and meat quality.

Feed amounts to at least 75% of production costs in beef cattle, and it is expected that the first commercial gene tests for feed efficiency will be available later this year.

DPI recently appointed Dr Yizhou Chen, formerly of the University of Sydney, to lead the involvement of its Beef Industry Centre in Armidale in collaborative molecular genetics research and development.

Dr Chen was previously involved in a major gene discovery in pigs.

It also purchased a $140,000 micro-array scanner, located in laboratories at the University of New England, to assist in the task of identifying genes ‘switched on’ or ‘switched off’ in animals with different performance characteristics.

Dr Chen’s initial focus will be to search for genes explaining feed efficiency differences in a unique cattle population developed by NSW DPI at the Trangie Agricultural Research Centre.

The 450 cow herd has been specifically bred for divergence in net feed intake.

Dr Chen will work with scientists from several organisations for the Co-operative Research Centre for Beef Genetics Technologies.

This gene discovery work is being done in conjunction with the University of Adelaide and Vic DPI, and is led by Dr Robert Herd (Principal Research Scientist, NSW DPI).

Dr Herd said research on identifying the genetic determinants of feed use efficiency is expected to provide significant economic benefits.

“Feed is the largest single cost in most livestock production enterprises.

“It has been estimated that in a typical beef production system, the direct and indirect costs associated with feed account for at least 75 percent of total enterprise costs”, Dr Herd said.

Further information:

Robert Herd, NSW DPI, Armidale on 02 6770 1808 or robert.herd@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Yizhou Chen, NSW DPI, Armidale on 02 6770 1804 or yizhou.chen@dpi.nsw.gov.au