08 Oct Livestock Gentec and Beefbooster bring new technologies to the industry
“We Don’t Guess, We Test”
Beefbooster’s simple yet memorable motto has deep roots. Since 1970, the organization has been bringing together the best cattle producers, scientists and stakeholders to find a way to breed formidable hybrid bulls.
Beefbooster is a beef seedstock company that operates as a co-op and produces breeding bulls that are selected for economically important traits using the latest available technology. Today, Beefbooster is the top supplier of hybrid bulls in Western Canada.
“Because our animals are hybrids,” explains Beefbooster CEO, Jennifer Stewart-Smith, “people may think they don’t have pedigrees. But in fact, through generations of recording performance and parentage, Beefbooster animals come with a raft of genetic information that assesses their genetic merit.”
Back in the 1970s, when the concept of crossbreeding was controversial, Jennifer’s father (a co-founder of Beefbooster) worked closely with UofAlberta’s Dr. Roy Berg, another strong believer in hybrid vigour. The collaboration morphed over the years—from Stewart-Smith senior and Berg, to Jennifer and Dr. Steve Moore’s Alberta Bovine Genomics Project, which evolved into Livestock Gentec.
“Steve Moore persuaded us to start collecting hair and DNA samples back in 2000,” says Jennifer. “As a result, we have one of the more complete databases that contains both phenotypes and genotypes. It’s unique in that sense. You need that kind of database to take advantage of today’s genomics technology.”
Today’s collaboration has a slightly different shape. Dr. John Crowley is co-employed by Gentec and Beefbooster (funded by AI Technology Futures) to apply appropriate Gentec research to a production scenario at Beefbooster. The main projects he is working on are
- the Canadian Cattle Genome Project, which is generating genome sequence data to further mine the DNA code beyond the usual genotype densities. The sequences, along with many other genotypes, will be used to achieve a greater accuracy in the estimated breeding values (EBV) for economically relevant traits that feed into the Beefbooster selection index.
- Molecular Breeding Values Project, which examines the genomics of feed efficiency. Since this is an expensive trait to measure through performance tests, the merit of using genomics to predict such a trait is huge. Producers can use the information to select for more feed efficient animals;
- Agricultural Innovation Program, which leveraged funds through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to help producers offset the costs of genotyping by returning a low density genotype for the same price as parentage.
“We have a mutually beneficial relationship with Gentec,” states Jennifer. “It’s really important to have a research organization like Gentec in the industry. We get access to scientific minds, the conference and peer groups, and the latest knowledge we can use. And on the flip side, Beefbooster is Gentec’s strongest producer partner.”
Read more on how Livestock Gentec is bringing new technologies to the industry