We would like to invite graduate and undergraduate students, as well as post-doctoral fellows to present a poster at the Livestock Gentec Field Day on August 22, 2017 at the Lacombe Research Centre.

This is a great event and opportunity to interact with producers and industry community to show the value of your research and do networking. We are looking for a wide range of topics to be presented in plain language to show the benefit of your research to the industry.  

There is no need to submit an abstract of your poster. However, due to space limitations, we would ask you to e-mail the title of your poster to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by August 12, 2017

Note: Poster measurements should be no larger than 48" x 48" and printed portrait style.

Calgary Stampede: UFA Cattle Trail

By Yee Ying Lock

The UFA Cattle Trail at the Stampede features a live and interactive exhibition of the beef cattle industry in Canada. It focuses on the entire beef production chain from pasture to plate, and aims to give the public some insight on where our food comes from.

The live cattle exhibit showcased different breeds of cattle in a pen to demonstrate how GrowSafe technology allows researchers and producers to determine individual animal food intake vs. growth more accurately. Visitors enjoyed trying out the interactive auction mart and cattle-sized weigh-in chute. The miniature feedlot set-up demonstrated industry innovation and processes that ensure the safe and efficient production of beef. The feedlot exhibit also touched on the different types of feed and at what part of the growth cycle to yield the highest daily gain. Other parts of the Cattle Trail focused on animal welfare, medicine and transportation, and a large display showed the benefits of eating beef and how it can be prepared to provide a healthy and tasty protein option every day.

The goal of our Livestock Gentec booth was to highlight the importance of genomics in breeding better cattle—which raised a lot of interesting questions from visitors. People were curious about how to select which traits via genomics and how it might affect the cattle’s health and meat quality. A number of visitors expressed concern about humans eating meat from an animal with genetic abnormalities. There was also a lot of interest in how DNA testing works, and from what samples types we can obtain via DNA for testing. People were intrigued at how accurate high throughput DNA testing can be and how much information can be obtained from a relatively small DNA chip.

Due to our positioning next the feedlot setup, we received a lot of questions about the use of hormones and antibiotics on animals. Most people were initially leery about the use of hormones and antibiotics on cattle due to the negative ad campaigns and misinformation on the internet. However, when the use of antibiotics was explained to them from the angle of animal welfare, efficiency and sustainability, almost all of them left with a more positive view. We also stressed that Health Canada sets a very stringent limit of the level of these substances allowed in consumed beef, which are far below the amount that could pose a health concern. Most people were pleasantly surprised at how much producers care about their animals’ welfare and living conditions.

We also received a lot of questions about Angus beef and the Angus brand. It was very interesting to hear a good proportion of people assume that Canada only produces Angus beef or that Angus beef is the direct representation of Triple A meat. Some assumed that the only way to choose good quality beef is to look for the Angus brand. Many are unaware that Certified Angus beef is a brand, and that a lot of the good beef in grocery stores is not Angus. We had some very in-depth conversations about why each breed has different traits that producers might want: e.g. maternal traits and marbling in Angus, overall larger sized and more docile behaviour in Herefords. I brought up the use of cross-breeding cattle and how increased heterosis will yield a much healthier animal. We also included how Envigour HX ™ could help producers determine what breed composition they have in their herd and how they could use the tool to help determine if they have achieved their breeding goals. We spoke to a couple of aspiring producers from abroad who were interested in bringing some North American cattle seedstock and breeding into their population.

The overall theme of conversations at the Cattle Trail was one of education and interaction. Visitors were inspired by the showcase and willing to strike an open conversation on any question about the beef production and the beef industry. Most people were concerned about how the foods on their plate affect their health. The major topics of conversations circled around food safety, nutrition and animal welfare. I gathered that the general public find food production rather confusing. As industry representatives, we should create more awareness through public exhibitions like the UFA Cattle Trail or social media to engage people in open discussions about our food-processing pipelines and shedding a positive light on the use of science to improve food production, safety and sustainability

Olds FutureFarm Expo

By Janelle Jimenez

The objective of the Olds FutureFarm Expo was to help producers bring technological advancements to their farming operations. As such, it included many demonstrations, tours and agriculture-based seminars over a three-day period (July 6-8, 2017); and over 100 exhibitors were set up indoors and outdoors to market their products ranging from the business side of farming to the application of future-forward techniques and tools. Companies involved with bioremediation and sustainable farming technologies including the use of microbial inoculations and bacterial catalyst to open up previously unusable land for farming were strongly represented. There was also big focus on using drone technologies.

The winner of the Canada 150in150 competition (Delta placed second) gave a thrilling presentation on a project that used the waste grain from beer production to grow edible mushrooms. He demonstrated how he was able to grow a specific strain of mushrooms in a fraction of the time they take to grow in nature. In total, 23 seminars took place, with other themes on drone navigation to help manage farms and survey land accurately, the use of continuous-charging battery-power systems, and carbon tax credits. There was also discussion regarding pest control, farm energy management, indoor aeroponic farming, and the pros and cons of GE/GMP alfalfa.

A number of educational tours also took place. The brewery tour took participants through the Olds College teaching Brewery and the hops crop, and allowed participants to taste the locally-brewed beers. Participants also toured the botanical gardens and constructed wetlands, where over 20 acres of wetland used to demonstrate the treatment of water runoff from the college campus.

The second tour gave information on a research project using RFID-based (ID tags that transmit data using radio frequency) data acquisition software that tracked animals’ food intake to learn about feed conversion into muscle. Another project examined how thermography can help detect bovine respiratory disease, with the goal of commercializing the technology and increasing cattle value in the industry.

As at the Cattle Trail, Ying Yee and I did our best to interact with visitors, and generally the feedback on our presentations and messages was very positive. Many people were interested in the upcoming Cow Forage Gentec Tour at the Lacombe Research Centre.

Overall, the event offered a great variety of interesting and useful themes that of great interest to the agricultural community.

International Society of Animal Genetics, Dublin, July 16-21, 2017

I attended ISAG to present the preliminary results from the first study of my thesis as a poster titled: Transcriptome analyses reveal reduced hepatic lipid synthesis and accumulation in more efficient beef cattle. I also wanted to learn new ideas from other scientists to improve my work.

I was impressed with the diversity of the poster presentations. A number of visitors to my poster provided more insight into how to improve discussion of my results, and others suggested different tools to survey the functional enrichment of the differentially-expressed genes identified in my study.

From Toni Reverter’s talk titled GBLUPs Me, GBLUPs Me Not: Marrying molecular biology and statistical genomics, I learned some fundamental principles that will help me integrate transcriptomic results data into genomic prediction models, and combine genomic data from different breeds or populations to improve the accuracy of genomic predictions. Reverter highlighted that it is possible to merge genomic data from different populations for genomic prediction, however, the genomic correlation of the two populations should be one, otherwise only markers that force genomic correlation between the two populations to be one should be used. I found this information of great importance given that, at the climax of my PhD research, I am expected to use Canadian beef animals as reference populations to predict breeding values of Irish beef cows for feed efficiency.

Since I am from a developing country, I was also greatly impressed with the presentations from the developing countries on animal genetics—and with the researchers who soldier on to provide at least a genetic characterization of their breed populations using modern marker genotyping tools, although they are constrained by a lack of phenotype recording systems. There was great enthusiasm among the researchers, mainly from Africa and the International Livestock Research Institute, who are initiating their self-developed simple models to collect phenotype data for economic traits on the animals they are characterizing (for example, using mobile telephone applications).

I greatly recommend the conference for specialist and students in animal breeding and genetics. It offers a rich opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge, and network with people from different production systems, environments and knowledge backgrounds.

 I will be integrating my learning into my current transcriptomic studies and future genomic studies. I hope to share the knowledge gained from ISAG with students and colleagues in my professional network.

Thank you to my supervisor Dr. Changxi Li who supported my travel to ISAG and also to the Executive Committee of ISAG who found my work worth presenting, and hence, offered me a student travel award bursary to financially facilitate my attendance.

Robert Mukiibi

Over 700 delegates from 52 countries attended ISAG, including researchers, industry practitioners and students. The conference provides a friendly platform for the cross-fertilization of knowledge and sharing of ideas related to animal genetics as applied to economically-important livestock through plenary sessions, oral presentations, poster presentation and social functions. Featured topics were on genome editing, functional genomics and gene expression, epigenetics, genome sequencing, genetic markers and selection, genome diversity, bioinformatics and computational biology, etc.

I found discussions on genome editing, gene expression and epigenetics the most appealing in providing new knowledge.

Genome editing provides new hope for corrective breeding in livestock by knocking out or inserting the relevant gene variant into a population for more timely genetic improvement. Tad Sonstegard of Acceligen (who will be speaking at Livestock Gentec’s LGC 2017 conference) described genome editing as a “cut-and-paste” technique for directional genetic improvement. Other presenters demonstrated that CRISPR works effectively for genome -editing animals. I found CRISPR to be a useful replacement for the traditional gene introgression method, because it quickly introduces a novel phenotype into a population in a single generation, thereby maximizing profit. One potential application in beef cattle is the introduction of gene variants associated with hardiness. However, in the light of ethical concerns with GMOs, adopting this technology for large-scale application may be slow.

Gene expression studies and functional analyses dominated most of the talks. Gene expression provides the connection between a gene variant and production of a functional gene product. While understanding the association between a gene variant and phenotypes is important for pinpointing a causative mutation, most gene products are not the direct expression of the underlying mutation. Diane Dickel of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) elucidated this concept in her plenary talk on “the role of enhancers in mammalian disease and development: Stories from more than thirty mouse knockouts.” Her studies showed that non-coding factors called “enhancers” can alter the expression of a gene product. Complementary talks demonstrated the uses of RNA sequencing of mammalian tissues to profile the transcriptome and understand changes in gene expression over time. While mulling over this idea, I familiarized myself with the rigorous steps that need to be undertaken when developing a precision panel for selection.

Epigenetic studies presented provided additional answers as to how external biological mechanisms can regulate or alter gene expression by switching gene variants on or off. Following talks by Pat Lonergan of UCD on “Molecular regulation of pregnancy establishment in cattle” and by Julian Marchesi of ICL on “Is it time to change the paradigm? Mammals are not just genes interacting with their environment,” we understood that molecular factors interacting with gene variants can regulate or alter the synthesis of functional gene products over time. The unanswered question is how to model this interaction statistically to explain genetic variation.

The conference was a huge success. Although, I was looking forward to learning new statistical approaches for use in unravelling biological information contained in the huge genomic data currently available, I found that most studies were based on laboratory experiments and an extensive use of bioinformatics tools. Instead, I turned to evolving knowledge and garnered new ideas to apply to our upcoming beef cattle projects. Generally, ISAG 2017 provided insightful approaches for genetic improvement of economically important livestock. Anyone with a passion for understanding genetic mechanisms and their association with phenotype would find the conference proceedings very helpful.

Everestus Akanno

Research Associate, Livestock Gentec

Cow Forage Gentec Tour

Tentative Agenda

8:00 AM – Registration for Legume Tour

8:30 AM – Legume tour participants depart on buses

8:30 AM – Registration for Cow Forage Gentec Tour

9:00 AM – Welcome

9:20 AM – Buses depart to Zig Zag

11:45 AM – lunch

12:00 PM – Presentation

1:50 PM – Busses depart for Zig Zag

4:20 PM – Wrap up in Pavilion

4:30 PM – Program ends

It’s All New at Olds College

Just a few years after celebrating its centennial, life is still good at Olds College thanks to major new funds that are enabling progress and innovation in agriculture.

The $1.75 million Technology Access Centre (TAC) for Livestock Production opened its doors to industry and students in September 2016. College-based TACs give SMEs access to expertise, equipment and technology to spark innovation, but unlike most other NSERC-funded programs, they are expected to become financially self-sufficient through a fee-for-service business model. While there are other TACs in Canada, only the one at Olds focuses on beef and livestock production. And it’s off to a particularly good start.

“Our second year will be strong!” says Shannon Argent, Manager. “We’re looking good to exceed all our goals, including revenue and student integration.”

The TAC will focus on providing services to producers and industry in the areas of feed efficiency, animal health and wellness, traceability and genetic improvement. Some services have been traditionally offered through the College and some are newly introduced through the TAC.

The TAC fits under the umbrella of the Olds College Centre for Innovation.

“The TAC fits really well with Olds College’s mandate for applied research and the testing it provides on crops, turfgrass, etc.” says Shannon. “Most of all, it broadens the exposure of students looking at careers in agriculture, and therefore their choices.”

The TAC is also supported by an external Advisory Board of industry professionals and producers. Gentec, for example, is a big supporter/user, providing a substantial in-kind donation and the services of CEO Graham Plastow on the Board.

Some of the innovations may find their way to the brand new FutureFarm Canada Expo on July 6-8, 2017 at the College, where companies from Canada and the US will demonstrate the products, equipment and services that tomorrow’s agri-businesses need to remain competitive.

“We invited new-to-market companies to feature technology that’s new but available,” says Shannon. “Delta Genomics, for example, will demonstrate its EnVigour HX™ parentage test for commercial replacement heifers.”

Good things come in threes, they say. The third in this case is an unprecedented $16 million private donation from David Werklund and Susan Norman that will grow to $32 million when all the matching funds have been committed.

“As a hub for smart agriculture, the Werklund Agriculture Institute will complement the objectives of the College, the TAC and the Expo in terms of agricultural leadership for young people,” concludes Shannon. “We’re very lucky to have been singled out in all these ways.”