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Cheaper, Faster Genetic Improvement in Farm Animals on the Way

Genomic selection will become considerably cheaper and will find much wider application in the near future, according to Dr Donagh Berry, researcher at the Teagasc animal and grassland research and innovation centre. He was speaking at the Agricultural Research Forum in Tullamore.

“Currently genomic selection is focussed on a relatively small number of production traits,” said Dr Berry. “Today it is economically feasible to study 1000’s of SNPs (groups of genes). This is currently the basis for genomic selection. In the near future, with the rapid advances in genomic and computing technologies, it will be possible to simultaneously study millions of genes of SNPs, with the benefit of selecting for more traits including important health and disease traits. This will be of major benefit to animal health, welfare and product quality as well as impacting favourably on the environment. This will ultimately improve the efficiency, profitability, sustainability and the international sustainability of Irish agriculture.”

Teagasc scientist Dr Michael Diskin, who organised the Agricultural Research Forum, added that “Ireland is internationally recognised for the strength of its Animal Science and Grassland Research Programmes including systems and grassland research, animal nutrition, reproduction and genetic programmes and was one of the first countries to adopt and apply genomic selection.”

“New opportunities are now emerging where Ireland can make further advances in these areas that will benefit the international competitiveness of the livestock industries in Ireland. This will require even closer cooperation between scientists from institutions such as Teagasc, UCD, AFBI in Northern Ireland and ICBF.   “To achieve this will require greater synergies and increased cooperation between these organisations. Each has unique strengths and leveraging these strengths is essential if we want to drive forward competitiveness in Irish livestock enterprises,” said Dr Diskin.

The Agricultural Research Forum is held annually and brings together scientists from Teagasc, University College Dublin, University College Galway, Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI, Northern Ireland), University of Limerick, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Queen’s University, Belfast, and Waterford Institute of Technology. The strength of the agricultural research programme in Ireland is reflected in the quality and diversity of papers presented at the Agricultural Research Forum.

Pictured at the Agricultural Research Forum in Tullamore on Tuesday, 15 March were Dr Andrew Cromie, ICBF; Dr Sinclair Mayne, DARD; Dr Michael Diskin Teagasc; Dr Donagh Berry, Teagasc and Dr Alex Evans, UCD