In an effort that brings Canada to the forefront of livestock genomics worldwide, scientists at the University of Alberta have just completed the genome sequencing of two types of bulls, one dairy and one beef (pictured below). These are the first animals to have been fully sequenced in Canada. Dr. Stephen Moore and Dr. Paul Stothard of the University of Alberta’s Bovine Genomics Program, in partnership with Life Technologies, have sequenced to a 20 fold coverage these two bulls on the SOLiD™ 3 System.

What does this mean?

Dr. Moore, the leader of the Bovine Genomics Program, said "Having an assembled sequence of the 3 billion DNA bases that constitute the genome of this elite Holstein bull allows the team to study the genetic variations that characterize its performance and to follow their transmission over subsequent generations."  Over 4.6 million genetic mutations were detected in the two bulls, most of them previously unknown.

This sequencing is significant to the dairy cattle industry because the bull's genes are likely to make an important contribution to the genetic make-up of future generations.  There will also be benefits for the beef industry.  Better knowledge of the genetic variation across the breeds will, through better breeding decisions, improve production efficiency, product quality and animal health, and reduce the environmental footprint of beef cattle production.

"The outcome will be that consumers will benefit from the research with more cost effective and healthier products on store shelves," said Dr. Moore.

What does the future hold?

Whole genome sequencing was enabled through recent advancements in next generation sequencing platforms. The team sequenced the bull's genomes using the SOLiD™ 3 System by Life Technologies which enabled them to complete the work in seven months at a cost of $130,000. The first cow was sequenced in 2009 after four years at a cost of $50 million.

“The SOLiD technology has allowed us to generate high density sequence information in a small number of runs. Combined with the high accuracy of the data it has made the recent sequencing much more effective than was previously possible,” Dr. Moore said in a statement at the University of Alberta.

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