July 2019

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Steve Moore: A career well-remembered

After a few decades of pioneering work on livestock genomics, Steve Moore retired from his position as Director of the Centre for Animal Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation on July 15. He shares some memorable moments of his career with us here.


Gentec student publishes in Microbiome

Gentec post-doc, Fuyong Li, has just published two important papers on the rumen microbiome in the top journal in its field, Microbiome. It has an impact factor of 9 and ranks in the top 2.4% of journals, making this accomplishment no small feat.
Fuyong’s supervisor, Leluo Guan, says, “We are the first to report that the level and diversity of rumen microbes are heritable, and the host markers (SNPs) associated with this variation are also associated with feed-efficiency in cattle. This suggests that we may be able to genetically select for animals that are colonized by preferred microbes for better feed efficiency. Previous work identified the host genetic effect, but they don’t really report the heritability, which is key for utility.”
Read here for more information on the papers and results.

Researchers identify promising new gene markers for feed efficiency

A study led by Gentec researcher Leluo Guan and post-doctoral fellow Hui-Zeng Sun (both ALES) has identified 19 genes that could serve as key markers for feed efficiency in cattle. See publication in Bioinformatics, Volume 35, Issue 10, 15 May 2019, pages 1712–1719. Find out more here and here. He has just been appointed to Zhejian University through China's Hundred Talents Program. Congratulations, Hui-Zeng!

$49.5 million awarded to Alberta Innovates and its partners

Alberta Innovates and its partners have won $49.5 million in the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) funded by the federal ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Alberta Innovates' Cornelia Kreplin (member of Gentec's Management Advisory Board) was at the centre of this effort. Cornelia also acknowledged the contribution of Gentec's former Director of Knowledge Transfer, Dawn Trautman, as part of the team who helped make it happen. Read more here.

Gentec to participate in new Genome Canada funding

Genome Canada announced the results of its latest competition to fund projects to advance sustainability and productivity of our agriculture, agri-food and fishery sectors. Winning projects led by USask will receive a total of $42.2 million. Among those is the Genomics ASSETS project led by Cheryl Waldner and Simon Otto, for which Gentec bioinformatician Paul Stothard will help develop software to optimize antibiotic use in feedlots and treat disease effectively while minimizing the chance of antibiotic resistance. Read more here. Paul will also co-lead a $12.1-million project with Christine Baes (University of Guelph) and Marc-André Sirard (Université Laval) and Ronaldo Cerri (University of BC) to develop new data sets and genomic tools that could result in more resilient dairy cows. Other Gentec researchers (CEO Graham Plastow, Ellen Goddard) will participate, too. Read more here.

New job at CalPoly for Gentec postdoc

Congratulations to Mohammed Abo-Ismail, who will be taking up a new position as Assistant Professor in Dairy/Livestock Genomics at California Polytechnic State University. We note that a team from Mohammed’s new department (Animal Science) won the National Academic Quadrathlon at the 2019 ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX.

ISAG and ACAS/CSAS conference reports

At Gentec, we want students and post-docs to benefit from international conferences to develop their peer networks and gain early career recognition for their ideas.
As an added benefit, they get to share their learning experience with the rest of us in a conference report, which is exactly what Xuechun Bai, Elda Dervishi and Jiyuan Li did. Read their ASAS/CSAS and ISAG reports.

At the tipping point: Investment in critical beef production research

With $1.5 million in support of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and a $1 million gift from an individual producer, UAlberta is working aggressively to secure a new Research Chair in Beef Production. This new position will focus on combining the existing beef genomics expertise of Livestock Gentec and the forage and feed development expertise of the Rangeland Research Institute to deliver innovative industry-led research and management tools to the beef producer. It will provide a great example of an industry-academic partnership working to ensure the economic sustainability of the individual rancher while enhancing the sustainable management of our environmental resources and social trust. 
Check out the objectives of the position, industry participation, and what it takes to make this potential a reality here.

PED in Alberta

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry veterinarian Julia Keenliside provides a brief history of porcine epidemic diarrhea in Canada and preventative action to keep farms safe. Read more here.

Don't miss Bov-Innovation and the CBBC Technical Forum

Bov-Innovation 2019 will take place on August 14, 2019 as part of the Canadian Beef Industry Conference. Bov-Innovation features producer-focused sessions designed to highlight practical ideas that are rooted in research. Speakers will share their perspectives and tips that producers can implement immediately. This year, the two sessions are: Alternatives to Antimicrobials and Dealing with Drought. Gentec has worked with CBBC and other partners to organize the associated Technical Forum on August 13. Find out more here or see the Events section below.

Catch up on your reading

USDA ARS, NIFA and scientists in the agricultural animal genomics community (including Gentec CEO Graham Plastow and Genome Alberta's David Bailey) published "Genome to Phenome: Improving Animal Health, Production, and Well-Being - A New USDA Blueprint for Animal Genome Research 2018."  An executive summary is available here. A slide deck is also available to facilitate discussions during presentations.

Faster proteomics analyses using AI

Better, faster, more accurate than mass spectrometry, the new Prosit AI tool can be applied to clinical and applied research to treat disease in humans, animals and plants. The researchers expect that "AI methods such as Prosit will soon change the field of proteomics, as they can be used in almost every area of protein research." Read more here.

What, exactly, is in a glass of milk?

Researchers at UAlberta have spent 5 years finding out. Now, they know the answer--and so can you. The Milk Composition Database lets users search for and view detailed profiles for more than 2,350 compounds found in cow’s milk. Read more here.

Kipoi: the new FREE machine learning repository increases accessibility in genome research

Kipoi provides free access to over 2,000 trained, ready-to-use machine learning models that have already been trained on the most relevant data. As Kipoi is oriented towards models that link genotype and phenotype, the new platform will make it easier to identify genetic causes of disease. Read more here.

"Smart Farm"ing at Olds College

Olds receives 316 acres for high-tech Smart Farm
Olds College has received a gift of 316 acres, valued at $1.2M, from the estate of Willem Pitstra. The land will be used to expand the college's high-tech Smart Farm, which is focused on transforming agricultural practices. Read more here.

Olds receives support from ATB for smart farm, AgSmart expo
Olds College has received a pledge of $250K over five years from ATB Financial to grow the College’s high-tech smart farm, and sponsor AgSmart, a two-day ag technology expo where farmers will be able to experience the latest innovations first hand. Read more here.


August 1. Field Day at the Research Farm. Fairview, AB. FREE EVENT
August 8. Saskatchewan Pasture Tour 2019. Saskatoon, SK
August 13-15. Canadian Beef Industry Conference. Calgary, AB.
August 13. CBBC Technical Forum. Calgary, AB
August 13-14. AgSmart. Olds, AB
August 14. Bov-Innovation (part of CBIC). Calgary, AB
August 16. In the Field Soil Health School. Battle River, AB.
August 20-14. Western Canadian Classic. Olds, AB
September 10-12. Canada's Outdoor Farm Show. Woodstock, ON
September 10-13. SPACE - International Exhibition for Animal Production 2019. France
September 14-17. Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, Saint Paul River Centre, MN
September 19. Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Forum, Montreal QC
September 27-29. Annual World Beef Expo. Milwaulkee, WI

"Paint Lunch"

“Paint Lunch” on June 6 was Gentec’s first Social Committee event of the year. Most of the students and post docs had been very busy with committee meetings and report deadlines, so it was a nice way for everyone to relax and have fun together during the day.
YayMaker provided the cow theme. Gentec provided the pizza and snacks. Everybody had a pile of fun. A full house of 20 people made their own interpretation of the same image. Honorable mention went to Graham Plastow and Elda Dervishi, who  created very individual and unique images, cows who definitely stood out from the herd!
“Everyone did an excellent job, and I think everyone really enjoyed tapping more into their own creative and artistic side, while seeing how creative and artistic we each could be,” said Janelle Jimenez, co-organizer of the event.

Gentec is the "talk of the building," as other offices inquired how to arrange their own paint events.
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