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Genomics to Improve Cattle and Sheep Production in Tropics

Professor Haja Kadarmideen, Leader of the Animal Breeding, Quantitative Genetics and Systems Biology group at IKVH-SUND is a research partner representing the University of Copenhagen in a tri-national collaborative project on “Genomics applied to Ruminant Production”.  The project has been granted approximately US$ 800,000 (DKK 5.26 million) by the São Paulo State Foundation (FAPESP) and the main principal investigator is Professor José Bento Sterman Ferraz from the University of São Paulo. Research partners are: College of Animal Science and Food Engineering, University of São Paulo (FZEA/USP), College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, State University of Sao Paulo (FCAV/UNESP), School of Agronomy, University of São Paulo (ESALQ/USP), University of California, Davis, USA, and the Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Genomics to improve cattle1Genomics to improve cattle2

Brief project description:

The Brazilian beef cattle, predominantly originating from Bos indicus breeds, have great importance in the world meat market, because the country has one of the largest beef herds in the world, with around 200 million head. The Nellore cattle breed (see inserted picture) comprises approximately 90% of the cattle population in Brazil. The sheep industry in Brazil has a herd of about 17.6 million head, but gets less attention than cattle production. Because of the importance of these animals for food consumption and economic growth, improvements are needed for efficient production, especially in the selection of genetically superior animals and animals that are resistant to adverse environments of the tropics. With increased demand for food worldwide, the quantity and quality of the production of animal protein is an important target of research. With recent advances in biotechnology, the use of high-density SNPchip allows us to develop strategies to identify genes or genomic regions responsible for traits of interest, making the selection process faster and more efficient. GWAS (Genome-Wide Association Study) identifies associations of genomic markers, or genomic regions with the important production phenotypes and resistance to diseases. The objective of this molecular-quantitative genetic project is to conduct GWAS, linkage disequilibrium analyses, detection of Copy Number Variations (CNVs) and functional enrichment in measures of growth, reproduction, meat quality and feed efficiency in Nellore cattle. Additionally, we will conduct global gene expression profiling (sequencing of total messenger RNA by RNASeq) and study epigenetic mechanisms that control the feed efficiency traits in Nellore cattle. The project will also address resistance to endoparasites and prolificacy in Santa Ines sheep.