New Technology

Genomic Tests Become More Affordable

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Price points are moving down for genetic testing as genetic data bases build, allowing use of a process called imputation to fill in gaps in DNA samples. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Mark Parker)

A new approach to genomic testing will provide Angus breeders with essentially the same information using a low density (LD) test as they would get from a high density (HD) test, cutting costs in the process.

Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) announced both of its lab partners, Zoetis and Geneseek will offer the LD tests through www.Angus.org, beginning June 17. Zoetis' i50K test will cost $47; the GeneSeek Genomic Profiler Bovine test (GGP-LD) will cost $45. In the HD version, including parentage, both of these are $75 through AGI. The lower costs for the LD options are thanks to a process called imputation.

Kent Andersen, with Zoetis' Animal Genetics division, said imputation is already being used in the dairy industry and is now moving into the beef side of the business. Essentially, imputation means instead of looking at each genetic marker in a sample, patterns are found and the missing markers filled in. Anderson explains DNA is inherited in sections, not one piece at a time. Imputation fills in the gaps in the same way a person can read sentences even when some letters/words are missing.

Using imputation, a LD 20K test would be 98% as accurate as a HD 50K test, explains Anderson. It provides effectively the same accuracy for GE-EPDs (genomic-enhanced expected progeny differences) as a HD 50K test.

AGI Director of Genetic Services Tonya Amen added, "Since such a large number of Angus animals have now been tested with either HD 50K or GGP-HD, programs have been trained to read or interpret the markers not included in the LD tests, such that the results are nearly indistinguishable from HD."

The American Angus Association, has genetic evaluations through AGI, representing more than 100,000 animals with HD 50K genotypes. This large base of genotyped animals helped scientists extend the technology of imputation to the breed. Zoetis' Anderson said Red Angus breeders will have access to the technology next, with Brangus and Limousin breeds to follow.

There are some animals Amen said she'd like to continue to see HD testing done on. These are primarily what she calls "high impact" cattle such as important AI sires that will produce a large number of the progeny in the Angus database.

For more information call your breed association representative or go to these sites: www.bifconference.com, www.angus.org, www.i50K.com and www.neogen.com

(VM/CZ)

Victoria Myers