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Expert Panel To Discuss Genomics at National Jersey Meeting

June 10, 2014

Five experts in genomic testing and evaluation will share their perspectives and prognosis for the future of Jersey genomics in a moderated panel discussion on Friday, June 27, 2014 during the AJCA-NAJ Annual Meetings in Alexandria, Va.

The program will feature three researchers from the USDA Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory at Beltsville, Md.—genomics pioneer Dr. Curtis P. Van Tassell, research leader Dr. Erin E. Connor, and animal scientist Tabatha Cooper—plus Dr. Michael D. Bishop of Illumina, Inc., San Diego, Calif., and Jeremy Walker of GeneSeek, Lincoln, Neb.

Each represents a step in the process from generating the genotype of an animal to evaluating its genetic merit, then using the information in mate selection and breed improvement.

The hour-long program begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Holiday Inn & Suites-Historic District, following the annual meeting of National All-Jersey Inc.

As of May 26, 72,378 Jersey genotypes (58,164 female and 14,214 male) were recorded in the database managed by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB).

"The panelists will discuss their individual areas of contribution to genomic evaluations and give our members insight about what may be on the genomic horizon," says Cari Wolfe, AJCA Director of Research and Genetic Program Development.

The panel will engage in a group discussion on the state of the art in genomic testing and evaluations and what it has meant for Jersey breeders since commercial release of the Illumina Bovine SNP50 chip in 2007. Time will be left for audience questions and discussion.

The goal, says Wolfe, is to demonstrate why genotyping should be an essential tool for genetic selection and herd management in all Jersey operations. "We believe this panel will stimulate idea sharing and creative thinking among those in the audience, as well as encourage greater use of the genomic tools now available."

Curt Van Tassell was one of three project leaders for the Bovine HapMap Consortium that completed sequencing the bovine genome in 2008. He was a principal in the development of the Bovine SNP50 chip, which is regarded as the global standard for genomic predictions, and collaborated with colleagues at the Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory to develop genomic PTAs. This has reduced the cost for A.I. sire development, enabled marketing of high genetic merit bulls earlier in life, and contributed to accelerated rates of genetic gain in production, type and health traits. Dr. Van Tassell received the AJCA-NAJ Award for Meritorious Service and has recently been named the 2014 Industry Person of the Year by World Dairy Expo.

Joining the panel will be Erin Connor, Research Leader of the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory (AGIL) at Beltsville, Md. A molecular biologist, Dr. Connor’s research is aimed at identifying and understanding the genetic and physiological factors affecting efficiency of nutrient use by dairy cattle.

Also on the panel will be Tabatha Cooper, an animal scientist responsible for monitoring incoming genomic data and reporting and correcting discovered pedigree discrepancies. Cooper, who is working on a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, also assists with the continuous research effort at AGIL to improve the genomic evaluation system.

Michael Bishop of Illumina began his scientific career as a Research Geneticist for the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb. He subsequently held the position of Director of Research for American Breeders Service (now ABS Global) before co-founding Infigen, Inc. and becoming its Chief Executive Officer. In his current position, Dr. Bishop is a member of Illumina’s Agrigenomics Market Development Team focusing on market development in the Americas. He also has many years of experience in production animal agriculture and resides in Rio, Wis.

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