DNA Collection

Speed Up Tissue Sampling

DNA collection using a new tissue sampling unit, Allflex TSU, averages 10 seconds per head. (Photo courtesy of Allflex)

What was once a challenge of collecting blood drops from a reluctant heifer or bull calf chute side can now be done in mere seconds with new tissue sampling tools. Recent field tests by Allflex USA show collecting DNA with the Allflex TSU averaged just 10 seconds per head.

"The science of beef genomics testing is making big advances and so are the companion technologies that enable it," said Scott Holt, North American marketing manager at Allflex USA Inc. "Making DNA sampling fast and clean makes it easier for the producer to adopt genomic-assisted selection, management and marketing."

When profiling cattle, it's important to record an animal's ID and correctly match it with the DNA sample. In the real world of handling cattle, with many things happening at once, mistakes can happen. It's not uncommon to find animal IDs have been mislabeled, blood or hair samples have been cross-contaminated or DNA test cards have been blown into the mud and muck.

With a quick squeeze, the Allflex TSU collects a small tissue sample out of the ear. The sample goes directly into a vial of preservative. This is faster than other methods, particularly compared to collecting blood drops. The vial of tissue is pre-labeled with a scannable unique barcode, to tie to an animal's ID. That barcode can be matched with RFID tags or visual tags. The built-in barcodes can be uploaded into ranch management software, Excel sheets or DNA dashboards, another step saver.

Once DNA testing is reported, barcoded animal ID or RFID or scannable ear tags brings data organization full circle, back into the setting where producers make management decisions.

"Taking 10 seconds to collect a DNA sample and send it into the lab can give you information that will shave years off your herd improvement program," said Micah Wells, beef genomics sales director at Neogen GeneSeek Operations. "Allflex TSUs make the process of collecting DNA faster, easier and cleaner, whether you are tagging baby calves in the calving pasture or processing heifers at chute side or getting DNA for bulls on test."

The testing system also now provides for archiving, important to seedstock producers. Previously, once unsealed the vial unit was no longer useful. Today, Allflex and Neogen GeneSeek reseal tissue in the vial for archiving. This enables breed associations to: retest animals as DNA technology advances; resolve suspected errors in animal ID, pedigree or parentage; and confirm DNA when animals are sold or transferred.

"TSU [tissue sampling unit] archiving gives associations new options for user-friendly DNA collection. This will help their members do DNA testing on more animals and get more valuable data into association databases," said Holt. Allflex and Neogen researchers have also shown the same sample can be used to screen for persistent infections of BVD and other genetic health impacts.

"This work with Allflex makes DNA testing more useful and convenient," said Stewart Bauck, general manager of Neogen GeneSeek Operations. "The value of the practice of DNA testing is growing while the costs and labor needed to get into are dropping, due in large part to companies that work together and with industry on behalf of producers."

Breed associations accepting TSUs for DNA testing include Red Angus, Gelbvieh, Hereford, Limousin, Simmental, Akaushi, Chianina, Maine-Anjou, Shorthorn and Wagyu.