July 2021

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Gentec tools bring value to producers

If you attended the ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting and Trade Show (in person or virtually) on July 14-18, you may have heard John Basarab, Gentec’s Head of Beef Operations, present unpublished results on validating some molecular breeding values (MBVs) using Gentec’s large phenotype and genotype databases—and the producer-facing tools that came out of them. Read more here.  And check out AgSmart Olds (see next snippet), where John will be presenting again on this subject.

More from Gleise Silva

Last month, we introduced you to Gleise M. Silva, the first BCRC-Hays Chair in Beef Production Systems at UAlberta. This month, to further spread the news on her research goals and aspirations for the Canadian cattle industry, she is the subject of a UAlberta Innovator Spotlight. Read more here.

Come visit us at AgSmart in Olds, Alberta

In a long-awaited return to in-person events, we look forward to connecting with producers, industry stakeholders as well as past and present colleagues at AgSmart Olds on Aug 10-11. AgSmart will be the launching point for our new strategic direction, new projects and new genomics tools for the beef industry. Gentec is proud to be a Silver Partner at this event.

We invite everyone to visit our booth, #255 in the exhibit tent from 9 AM to 5 PM. We will be showcasing new resources, including:
  • Feeder Profit Index
  • Replacement Heifer Profit Index
  • Arm-Chair Rancher (project introduction)
  • Genomics-Enhanced Whole Herd Management (project introduction)
We will also be hosting educational sessions: View the Gentec page on the AgSmart directory here.

See you there!

Virtual ISAG features Gentec presentations

The International Society of Animal Genetics held its annual conference virtually this year (July). The organizers produced an amazing event in terms of logistics although the convenience of attending from your own desk means potentially missing a lot of on-the-spot “pick and mix”, and the serendipity of bumping into colleagues or unexpected sessions.

In the first plenary (co-chaired by our UoGuelph collaborator, Christine Baes), Jared Decker (University of Missouri) delivered a fantastic look at “Combining quantitative genetics and population genomics to improve beef sustainability”, in particular looking at the genetic architecture of environmental adaptation across the different ecosystems in the US. (See more in the July 2021 publication from the group in PLoS Genetics 17(7): e1009652). Of course, this is music to our ears, as we look at selecting the right cattle for the right environment even across Alberta as we anticipate more climate change . The first talk of the conference by Jack Dekkers describes the work on disease resilience, supported by Genome Canada and led by Mike Dyck at UAlberta.  Gentec CEO Graham Plastow and collaborator Chris Tuggle (Iowa State University) rounded out the event, hosting the last workshop session on the Genetics of Immune Response. In between, the first results from our Kinsella cattle and the BovReg project were presented in two posters as part of developing a high-resolution functional annotation of the cattle genome.


It's the season for PhD defences. We have three to report:
  • Xuechun Bai: Exploring Complete Blood Count to Improve Disease Resilience in Pigs (Supervisor: Gentec CEO Graham Plastow). Passed without revisions.
  • Seyed Ali Goldansaz: Investigating Blood Biomarkers of Economic Traits in Sheep Using Metabolomics (Supervisors: Gentec CEO Graham Plastow, and David Wishart). Passed without revisions.
  • Kajal Devani: Genetic and Economic Implications of Teat and Udder Structure in Canadian Angus Cattle (Supervisor: Karin Orsel at UCVM).

The Canadian Society of Animal Science presented its 2021 awards earlier this year. Gentec and UAlberta were well represented.
  • CSAS Fellowship
    • Leluo Guan, UAlberta
  • Canadian Industries Award in Extension and Public Service
    • Ruurd Zijlstra, UAlberta
  • Young Scientist Award
    • Anne Laarman, UAlberta

Gentec-associated researcher Ellen Goddard is a key author on a new report from CAPI on chronic wasting disease (think, mad cow disease for deer). The report provides an analysis of CWD developments and the policy measures needed to prevent the spread and transmission of this highly-contagious and fatal disease throughout the Prairies as well as its potential risks and impacts on the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. The report is based on a Genome Canada-funded project on which Goddard and fellow Gentec researcher Paul Stothard were co-investigators. Check out the report here.

Congratulations, everyone !

Funding opportunity

The purpose of this call from BCRC is to fund proof-of-concept research and clinical trials that help achieve the objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. Deadline for applications is September 1, 2021. Download the call documents here.

Higher ed news

Olds, Lethbridge partner on agricultural research, sustainability
Olds College and Lethbridge College have signed an MOU focusing on agricultural research and sustainability. The partnership will see Lethbridge and Olds identify joint projects, refer companies to each other, share data and data networks, and provide industry partners with a consistent and competitive fee structure. Read more here.

UManitoba receives funding for collaboration projects in agriculture
UManitoba’s Digital Architecture will receive over $2.49M to support a project that will “advance agricultural research and training capacity for students in collaboration with industry partners.” Read more here.

New carbon program at UCalgary
UCalgary’s Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education will receive $1.17 million from the Government of Alberta. The funding will be used to establish a baseline of carbon emissions for Alberta’s agriculture industry and provide recommendations for reducing these emissions. Read more here.

Russia produces its first viable cloned calf

A team led by researchers from Moscow State University has produced Russia's first viable cloned calf. The same team is hoping to create gene-edited cows with hypoallergenic milk by knocking out the genes responsible for beta-lactoglobulin, a protein causing milk allergy in humans. Read more here. As always, we caution to think about gene-editing targets very carefully to help win support for technology. Walk before running.

Faculties of Agriculture: Yesterday and tomorrow

From the pithy pen of Alex Usher, higher education strategy consultant, comes possibly Canada's best daily (and free!) blog on the latest rumblings in that sector. Always worth five minutes of your time. In this post, he provides historical context to faculties of Agriculture around the world and a future path to follow. Read more here. It’s always good to reflect on what the past may tell us about the future, especially when we see so much change underway at UAlberta these days.

Canadian Agri-food Policy Institute releases Synthesis Report

This is the full report summarizing CAPI's Big Solutions Forum. The report has four components:
1: Executive Summary
A high-level overview of the Creating Prosperity from Chaos research program, the Big Solutions Forum and the initial conclusions.
2: CAPI Presentation
A narrative summary of the CAPI presentation by Ted Bilyea outlining CAPI’s conclusions and the journey to get there.  
3: What We Heard at the pre-Dialogue on May 11
A deep dive into the discussion among agri-food system leaders.
4: What We Heard at the BSF final day on May 20
A summary of the final event of the Big Solutions Forum. A panel of Deputy Ministers and a panel of industry leaders provided their perspectives on how to achieve prosperity in Canadian agriculture in light of CAPI’s conclusions and key actions from the pre-Dialogue.


August 4. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Beef Cluster (but were afraid to ask)
August 17. Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency Annual General Meeting
August 17-19. Canadian Beef Industry Conference, Penticton, BC
August 10-11. AgSmart. Olds, AB
August 10-12. Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show. Nashville, USA
August 24-26. Global African Swine Fever Research Alliance. Kampala, Uganda
August 25-26. North American Manure Expo
September 7. Ag in Motion: Livestock Day
September 14-16. Canada's Outdoor Farm Show. Woodstock, ON
September 18-21. Leman Swine Conference. Minneapolis, USA
September 21. ABIC Speaker Series. Dr Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of CRISPR
September 22-24. Inventure$ 2021--Herding Robots on the Range
September 23-26. Annual World Beef Expo. Milwaukee, WI, US
September 28. GIS and Smart Farming
September 28. Canadian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef AGM. Save the date
September 28-October 2, 2021. World Dairy Expo. Madison, WI, USA

The lighter side: "My lovely calves"

Reminiscent of 4-H'ers on this side of the Atlantic, young William Woods in Ireland spent his prize money on six beloved heifers--not an iPhone. Check out his story here.
© 2021, Livestock Gentec

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