November 2017

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Gentec conference highlights

In case you weren't there--or even if you were--here are the highlights of our 8th annual conference. Check out especially the food, the dancers (!) and the cowboy hats.

Testimonial: FarmFair International

A few years ago, we summarized FarmFair International for those who couldn't attend in person. To demonstrate the value of events such as these, we want to share a testimonial and the photos we received from Tiago Valente (a postdoctoral fellow) and Robert Mukiibi (PhD student), both with Gentec.

"We would like to thank you (Cornelia Kreplin, Alberta Innovates) and Graham (Plastow, Gentec CEO) for FarmFair tickets. It was a very interesting opportunity to interact with some of the Alberta beef breeders and to know a little bit more about the pure breed herds in our province. We also had the opportunity to tell them about our experience working with animal breeding and genetics at UofA and Livestock Gentec. It was a good surprise to figure out that most of the pure breeders are actually working with Delta Genomics and Livestock Gentec scientists for genetic and genomic prediction, and how they are interested in improving their herds. So, Robert and I are really grateful for the experience."

Understanding broiler gait kinematics

Through genetic selection, the modern day broiler has undergone improvements in appetite, its ability to efficiently gain weight, and in its survivability. However, the resulting rapid growth may affect their gait. Read more on the research being done, and Gentec's participation, to help fix this here (you may have to scroll down).

Seeding ideas for the benefit of humans and animals

A few years ago, Leroy Hood of the Institute of Systems Biology inspired Gentec CEO Graham Plastow to change his thinking about livestock and disease. The phrase Hood used to open up this new approach was: “a window on health." He was talking about blood, and how it visits every organ and tissue, collecting data at eachstop. A blood sample can tell us a great deal about the state of the body, especially if these data are monitored over time. We can describe the healthy state of the body, and also see how it changes over time and in different ways in response to stress or sickness.

A first step for the Gentec team was to look at how the expression of all of the genes in white blood cells changes after infection. They began working with The Metabolomics Innovation Centre at UAlberta to examine how small molecules (metabolites) in the blood may differ with infection or differ between efficient and inefficient animals. More recently, they added efforts to track changes in the gut microbiome to understand some of the complexity; and to monitor behaviour with "Fitbits" or other wearables for cattle and pigs.

So it was exciting to read about some of the results from Hood’s work, and listen to Stephen Jones talk about personalized cancer screening at our annual conference (stay tuned for the video and summary).

Mitigate climate change? Plant some trees!

The science on climate change can be daunting but not all mitigation efforts need to involve technology. Sometimes, Mother Nature can contribute very effectively. The Nature Conservancy's Natural Climate Solutions report shows that most of these actions offer water filtration, flood buffering, soil health and biodiversity habitat as well as climate benefits.

At Gentec, we  are developing strong links with UAlberta's Rangeland Research Institute to combine their skills on carbon capture with ours on animal efficiency to make better use of our resources. This is part of our new strategic plan of working on crops/forage as well as livestock on a more holistic approach to agriculture.

US farmers to cut dairy GHG emissions by 25% by 2020

In the wake of a detailed life-cycle assessment of their greenhouse gas emissions, dairy farmers in the US are promoting the use of technology to be more eco-friendly. Read more here. Watch the video at the bottom of the page.

High-tech meat still doesn't quite cut it

Not so much on the taste/texture fronts--we're all accustomed to tofu by now--but in terms of price, sustainability and equity of access. Read more here.

Animated infographics on beef sustainability

Want some quick, visual answers to your (or your kids') questions about beef and sustainability? Here are some excellent animated graphics with everything you wanted to know in a clear, easy format. No need to be confused again!

How the supermarket tomato is getting its mojo back

Long the aim of adjectives such as "tasteless," "cardboard," and "crunchy," today's supermarket tomato is making a comeback thanks to new understanding in the genetics that turned this delicious, sweet fruit into an object of ridicule. Read more here.

"Fake transparency" in food labelling

You can buy “premium” water that’s not only free of GMOs and gluten but is certified kosher and organic. Never mind that not a single drop of water anywhere contains either property or is altered in any way by those designations," says Brandon McFadden, author of this revealing article, in which he says that fake transparency mostly leads to higher prices based on consumer fears and desires.

Wal-mart responds to food waste

Long the poster-child of consumerism and cheap products, one Canadian Wal-mart store has cut its food waste by 20% (albeit after an investigation). Good for them! Read more here. The world actually produces more than enough food for its population but loses over half through poor storage and distribution before it even reaches consumers. And then we let it rot in the back of the fridge. Every part of the food supply chain, including consumers, should be on board with Wal-mart on this.

Trade-offs: Production vs practices

In this podcast, Brady Deaton (UGuelph) talks to Dr. Jayson Lusk (Purdue) about today's food movement, which is based on increased productivity but doesn’t always recognize the trade-off between desired production practices and productivity. The future of food depends, in part, on how these interests get worked out in agricultural policy.

Does your genome predict your face?

Reality is catching up to science fiction and TV crime dramas like CSI. Human Longevity, the company founded by famous genomics expert J. Craig Venter, claims that DNA could be used to create a photo image of what people look like. Read more here.


December 5. 2017 Cattle Genetics Round-up. Langham, SK. Contact:
December 5-7. Conference on Soil Health & Grazing. Edmonton, AB
January 9-11. Banff Pork Seminar. Banff, AB
January 20. FarmSmart 2018. Guelph ON
January 21-23. Alberta Beef Industry Conference. Red Deer, AB
January 23. Cow-Calfenomics Seminar Vermilion, AB
January 23. Preventing reproductive wrecks. BCBC webinar
January 24. Cow-Calfenomics Seminar Westlock, AB
January 25. Cow-Calfenomics Seminar Stettler, AB
January 26-27. Canadian Bull Congress. Camrose, AB

The lighter side: Who's a clever cow, then?

Not new, but amusing and instructional nonetheless. Who knew cows could be so versatile!

Happy Holidays from the Gentec team!

image courtesy of
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