Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Completed Bovine Genome Sequence Opens Door to Better Cattle Production

MU researcher is part of team that untangles genetic history of cattle

April 23, 2009

Story Contact:  Kelsey Jackson, (573) 882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A University of Missouri researcher worked with international teams to sequence the bovine genome and study the diversity among breeds. The research from the completed genome will provide new information about mammalian evolution, cattle genetics and could result in improved cattle production. The results appear this week in two articles in the journal Science.

"The United States derives an enormous amount of protein for humans from animal production, particularly beef cattle," said Jerry Taylor, professor and Wurdack Endowed Chair of Animal Genomics in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Yet, we have had a difficult time improving feed efficiency and meat quality. If we can understand the relationship between genes and the end product, then we can use that information in our beef improvement programs."

Taylor took a lead role in developing the bovine "HapMap." The HapMap is a map of genetic diversity among different breeds of cattle that will provide researchers with a scientific history of how domesticated cattle and other ruminants diverged from a common ancestor. Using the bovine HapMap, researchers described genetic variation among different branches of the bovine family tree, starting with the major division between the humpless taurine cattle most commonly found in Europe, Africa, and East and West Asia, and the indicine cattle found in India, South and West Asia, and East Africa.

"The emergence of modern civilization resulted in adaptation, assimilation and interbreeding of cattle," Taylor said. "This resulted in breeds differing in milk yield, meat quality and resistance to disease and pests. The bovine HapMap data show that cattle have undergone a rapid recent decrease in effective population size from a very large ancestral population, possibly due to bottlenecks associated with domestication, selection and breed formation. The recent decline in diversity is sufficiently rapid that loss of diversity should be of concern to animal breeders."

More than 300 scientists from 25 countries worked six years to complete the sequence. The bovine genome consists of 22,000 genes and is more similar to that of humans than that of mice and rats. Researchers are particularly interested in genes that are involved in immunity, lactation, metabolism and digestion.