Livestock Genomics and the Case for Animal Protein – Future of Agriculture

What affect will animal genomics have on the future of agriculture? Dr Jesse Hoff from Gencove joins us today to explain the advantages assessing livestock genomics can offer. Gencove performs genetic sequencing providing half of the animal’s genome. This allows for an avenue to assess the genetic potential of any animal for a breeding program in a rapid, efficient, affordable fashion.

“What we’re trying to capture is what we call the genetic value or sometimes the breeding value of that bull. And that really describes very purely, the genetic component of who they are.” – Dr. Jesse Hoff

Dr. Hoff explains that the genetic value encompasses their “genetic contributions on average to their offspring.” In the dairy industry you might focus on milk production or in beef cattle, the marbling, but neither of those things can be assessed in a bull without evaluating the production or carcass of their offspring.

“Using that genetic data really takes quite a bit of risk out of the process of buying a bull or using new semen from a new AI stud or retaining heifers in our population. So we don’t need surprises of open animals. We don’t need surprises of animals that don’t perform well.” Dr. Jesse Hoff

Studying the animal’s genomics can answer that question as soon as the bull is born, saving time in selection and feeding. It is rare to find any elite bulls that haven’t had some genotyping technology used on them. Previous genomic processes assess 10-50,000 positions in a genome. Gencove’s sequencing technology provides 10’s of millions of sites.

“We’ve been able to get a great running start in animal genetics and breeding by defining these marker panels and helping us understand an elite and a core population in a well-defined way.” – Dr Jesse Hoff

As more datasets accumulate with more testing Dr. Hoff sees the potential to continue to identify “unique sets of genetic locations that are influencing those phenotypes that matter to you.” All of this will add detail to the picture of genetic potential Gencove can provide livestock producers.

As an aside, Dr. Hoff mentioned his opinion on a different cutting edge field in agriculture. Being raised as a beef rancher and working as a scientist with a PhD, Dr. Hoff has very unique insight into lab grown meats. He comments that “there’s a lot of incredibly sophisticated biological things” that contribute to animal protein that are unlikely to be replicated in a lab. He also sees many ways that animal protein processes can be enhanced, promoted and made to be more efficient that can open opportunities to that industry. Lab grown meat may not have the same versatility. Dr. Hoff also gives us an update on genetic modifying and editing in livestock animals and the potential it allows.

This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:

  • Meet Dr. Jesse Hoff, Agrigenomics business development manager at Gencove
  • Explore the advantage genomics can give livestock operations
  • Hear about Dr. Hoff’s perspective on other new and up and coming technologies in agriculture

Check out Heifer International and Helping Hands to see how you can get involved!

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Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.