Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2001


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVII December 11, 12, and 13, 2001 - Casper, Wyoming.


Breathtaking advances are occurring in the knowledge and understanding of the structure, sequence and function of DNA. The entire genetic blueprint, or DNA code, has now been deciphered for humans, mice and a variety of other organisms. This modern-day “Genomic Revolution” may be one of the most important periods in the scientific history of humankind, promising diagnostics and therapeutics for numerous diseases and maladies.

In animal agriculture, and particularly in beef cattle improvement, the payoffs of the “Genomic Revolution” have seemingly been few and far between. DNA information on cattle is now routinely used for determining parentage and for quality control, and a handful of DNA diagnostic tests are available for a small number of relatively simple traits. However, the true potential of harnessing genomic technologies in beef cattle awaits application of DNA testing for production traits such as carcass composition and quality, growth, reproduction and overall health status. If properly developed and delivered, these diagnostic tools may assist genetic improvement by increasing accuracy of the selection process, while simultaneously lowering the time required in order to reach and effect selection decisions. Alternatively, DNA tests can be used as tools to sort cattle and properly match a genetic profile with management decisions such as feeding and use of implants. In the long-term, assuming public acceptance of GMOs, the cattle genome may eventually be engineered to design novel animals and beef products.