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MSU Gets $5M for Dairy Cow Genomics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Michigan State University scientists plan to use a $5 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture for genomics-focused efforts aimed at improving efficiency of milk production in cows.

The funding from USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative will support the researchers' plan to develop a feed efficiency database on 8,000 genomically characterized Holstein cows, and to determine the genetic architecture of feed efficiency and build a foundation for genomic selection of more efficient animals. They also plan to develop and implement genomic breeding tools to produce cows with enhanced efficiency and tools to improve whole-herd efficiency.

Another aspect of the program will seek to educate the public about practices in dairy husbandry that promote feed efficiency and sustainability.

"We already know how to get cows to produce more than 100 pounds of milk a day – we have the science to be able to do that," said Mike VandeHaar, an animal science professor at MSU and an AgBioResearch faculty member.

"Our question now is whether some cows are genetically predisposed to produce that milk with less feed," he said. "If we find that feed efficiency is inherent in a cow's DNA, it will improve our ability to sustainably produce the milk and dairy products that our growing population consumes."

The MSU-led project will involve research partners from the University of Wisconsin, Iowa State University, Wageningen UR in the Netherlands, the University of Florida, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina A&T.

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