Mapping the return on investment (ROI) QTL: A progress report on animal genomics

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After more than 20 years of targeted investment, genomics is now on the verge of widespread adoption across many animal industries. Public-financed genome sequencing projects and the development of related technologies to lower the costs of genotyping continue to stimulate adoption of genomics by the animal industries and companion animal health providers. Early adoption in the livestock industry has initially involved improving existing breeding and traceability systems. The virtual or literal vertically integrated dairy, pig and chicken industries are well positioned to be early adopters. The integrated structures provide the business model to capture value generated by the incorporation of genomic information and technologies into their production systems. The major challenges will continue to be the costs of sample collection, processing and reporting, and how to integrate information into a real-time management system. Underpinning future research will be the availability of sequenced genomes for each of the production species (cattle, pigs and chickens) and large-scale DNA-arrays or 'single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chips' to perform low-cost genome scans. Such emerging technologies permit the identification and mapping of allelic variants affecting animal performance in existing commercial populations. The utility of markers to predict performance and genetic worth will expand from specialized tests for specific traits to 'whole genome selection', where segments of DNA are tracked and sold based on predicted genetic merit (for a specific management scheme). The implications are positive both for producers and consumers. Producers can address lower production costs associated with feed efficiencies and diseases, whereas consumers will witness the emergence of branded products that are safer with increased nutritional value, reduced environmental impacts and greater animal welfare. Finally, the application of genomics for companion animals (cats, dogs and horses) will focus on developing new nutritional approaches to improving health and wellness. Companion animal health and nutrition companies will use genomic information to develop specific diets for specific breeds and ages of animals. They have also developed diagnostic tests for parentage and breeding to eliminate genetic diseases in specific breeds. In conclusion, genomic information and related technologies are already providing 'quantitative' returns on research investments to livestock and healthcare industries and further promise to make 'qualitative' impacts on the nutritional value of foods, their safety, the wellness of our animals while decreasing environmental impacts. The future waits for further validation studies demonstrating the utility of genetic markers identified in experimental crosses in commercial operations. The creation of SNP haplomaps will also permit the use of SNPs across animal populations overcoming the current limitation of genetic marker utilization within families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number005
JournalCAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Animal genomics
  • Breeding and genetics
  • Genome sequencing
  • Quantitative trait loci (QTLs)
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • General Veterinary


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