April 2017

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A wild boar story

Gentec post-doc Janelle Fouhse went to Saskatchewan to get gut samples from wild boar. She came back with an unusual experience and a great story. Read more here.


  • Dr Steve Miller, Director of Genetic Research, American Angus Association, was awarded the Mark of Excellence by BIO. The award recognizes excellence in leadership and contribution to the livestock industry in Canada. More details here.
  • Gentec student Nicky Lansink won 2nd prize in the Masters' oral paper competition at the 70th annual Society for Range Management (SRM) meeting.
  • Gentec scientist Leluo Guan's “Metatranscriptomic Profiling Reveals Linkages between the Active Rumen Microbiome and Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle” was selected by the editors of Applied and Environmental Microbiology for inclusion in "Spotlight," a feature highlighting articles of significant interest.
  • UAlberta researcher Barry Irving was awarded the SRM's 2017 W.R. Chapline Land Stewardship Award. See the article below.
  • UAlberta is the world's 31st "most international" university says Times Higher Education--an astonishing jump of 48 places over the last survey. Read more here.

Full Circle: Barry Irving

Barry Irving is responsible for UAlberta's off-campus research units, including the Roy Berg Kinsella Research ranch and the Mattheis ranch. He talks to Gentec about the "circle of life" (research units, researchers and teaching programs) and one talented student among a "bunch of goofball kids." Find out who that student was here.

Save the date: LGC2017 announcement

One Genome, One Health: Our Animals, the Environment and Us

Gentec is pleased to announce its 8th annual conference entitled One Genome, One Health: Our Animals, Our Environment and Uslooking at how DNA technology and genomics are impacting all life on earth.  In the human realm, this can range from developing cancer’s leading-edge treatments and precision medicine, to understanding and mitigating antimicrobial resistance, to discovering  what our DNA indicates about our family history.

Genomics also has an impact on our animals, as it plays an increasing role in the selection, management, and health of livestock as well as in the way we treat and care for our pets. In short, genomics impacts all aspects of the animals we live with and the crops we grow. Genomics influences the health and efficiency of food production, how we breed and treat our animals, and directs efforts to improve our own health and that of the environment.

Join us on October 17th and 18th in Edmonton to hear and discuss how genomics is and will increasingly be employed in the home, the hospital, and in the barn to impact our health and our long-term sustainability. More information will be available soon.

The Irish connection

In the last academic edition of the newsletter, we featured Tara Carthy, in Alberta from Ireland to collaborate with us on identifying structural variants. The hyperlink didn't work so you didn't get to read it. With our apologies to Tara, here it is now.

In the news

  • Gentec student Razie Khorshidi's work at UAlberta has landed in South Africa where we hope it will soon benefit producers. Read more here.
  • A nod to Gentec-associated researcher Ed Bork in Canadian Cattlemen in an article on the lack of funding/researchers in forage crops.

gEPDs for Commecial Beef Cattle

In the beef industry, Estimated Progeny Differences (EPDs) and Genomic Estimated Progeny Differences (gEPDs) have been applied almost exclusively in the pure breed sector—and very limited (almost no) application within the much larger commercial cattle population. This is beginning to change, in large part due to advances led by John Basarab of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, working with Livestock Gentec and others at the Lacombe Research Centre
In his presentation titled “gEPDs for Commercial Beef Cattle” delivered at Gentec’s 2016 conference, John talks about the project and the progress being made. The aim is to improve the accuracy of EPDs and gEPDs, and deliver the economic benefit of their use to the commercial beef sector. Estimates of the annualized benefit applied over Canada’s 4.7 million beef cows and replacement heifers range from a cumulative 5-year benefit of $214 million to over $300 million.
The project has already delivered a tool for immediate impact and value – sire assignment, genomic breed composition and retained hterozygosity. EnVigour HXTM was launched in February by Delta Genomics, and profiled in greater depth here.
In the presentation, the value of retained heterosis (RH) for commercial producers was estimated to improve feed efficiency by 0.08kg DM/day for each 10% increase in RH improvement. Increasing RH from 30% to 60% would save $18/head in feed costs over 250 days of feeding—and the benefits occur in year one!

Recent death launches new interest on prion protein

A new case of vCJD in the UK was identified in 2016 by sequencing bacterial prions--which opens up a whole new avenue for research on the influence these prions might have in other species. Read more here.

19 US cattle breeds in new online database

The database is a searchable and publicly viewable genomics resource that will make it easier for scientists to identify genes associated with traits that are important to breeders and ranchers. It was created by Agricultural Research Service scientists in Nebraska as a result of sequencing the whole genomes of 96 bulls. Read more here.

And remember to the list the 400 Canadian bulls sequenced as part of the1,000 Bull Genomes project (to which Gentec contributed).

Individual philanthropy plays an increasing role in innovation in Canadian agriculture

Large-scale donations are becoming more critical in ensuring Canada’s universities develop world-class expertise. UAlberta has been blessed with such gifts. At the Faculty of ALES, these include the Mattheis ranch, the St. Albert Research Station, and other locations that pave the way for our expertise in forage and rangeland, feed efficiency, livestock genetics and more. Recently, UoGuelph received a $20 million gift that will create the Arrell Food Institute.
Having celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, the Faculty of ALES has a long list of alumni who have enjoyed success in their profession, and as mentioned above, have given back. If you would like to support the competitiveness and innovation at UAlberta, please click or call to support the initiatives that spark your passion, and give the next generation a running start.


June 5-7. Canadian Meat Council's 97th Annual Conference. Ottawa, ON
June 7-9. World Pork Expo. Iowa, USA
June 8-11. Canadian Angus National Convention. Brandon, MB
June 11. Saskatchewan Stockgrowers Association conference. Moose Jaw, SK
June 11-14. 10th International Conference on Pig Reproduction 2017. Missouri, USA
June 12-15. National Symposium on Applied Techniques and Industry Economics in Beef Production. China
June 14-15. Alberta Pork Congress. Red Deer, AB
June 22-23. UCalgary Faculty of Vet Medicine Beef Cattle Conference. Calgary, AB

Lighter (well, more unusual) side

Data creation is growing at a pace that will soon leave the capacity of traditional storage devices in the dust. To compensate, researchers are finding ways to store giant quantities of information in DNA. See here what has been stored so far.
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