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Over the last decade, progress in molecular biologic techniques has brought the mapping of genes within the human and mouse genomes to a point where information on the location of groups of genes and additional anonymous, but unique, bits of DNA (markers) within their respective genomes can be brought to bear in developing a bovine genomic map. This is possible because of the conservation of genes, particularly those concerned with regulating important functions, between species into syntenic (single chromosome) groups.
Investment in the development of a bovine map is important for several reasons. While continued selection of desirable traits by the commercial livestock industry has made significant progress in improving moderately and highly heritable traits such as milk production, growth rate, and leanness, relatively little progress has been made in developing markers which significantly improve selection for less heritable traits or improve conception per service. Agribusiness research has also developed and provided diagnostic tests and vaccines for preventive herd health programs, yet little progress has been made in improving disease resistance while reducing costs.