1. USDA-ARS, National Program Staff, Beltsville, Maryland, USA 20705
2. USDA-CSREES, National Program Staff, Washington, District of Columbia, USA 20250
3. USDA-ARS Biotechnology and Germplasm Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, USA 20705
Agricultural animal research has been immensely successful over the past century in developing technology and methodologies that have dramatically enhanced production efficiency of the beef, dairy, swine, poultry, sheep, and aquaculture industries. In the past two decades, molecular biology has changed the face of agricultural animal research, primarily in the arena of genomics and the relatively new offshoot areas of functional genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and metagenomics. Publication of genetic and physical genome maps in the past 15 years has given rise to the possibility of being able finally to understand the molecular nature of the genetic component of phenotypic variation. While quantitative geneticists have been remarkably successful in improving production traits, genomic technology holds potential for being able to lead to more accurate and rapid animal improvement, especially for phenotypic traits that are difficult to measure.
Recently, the agricultural research community has been able to capitalize on the infrastructure built by the human genome project by sequencing two of the major livestock genomes (Gallus domesticus and Bos Taurus). The 2005 calendar year is truly unprecedented in the history of agricultural animal research since draft genome sequences were completed for chickens and cattle. In addition, sequencing the swine and equine genome was initiated in early 2006. We now have in place a powerful toolbox for understanding the genetic variation underlying economically important and complex phenotypes.
Over the past few years, new challenges have emerged for animal agriculture. Enhancements in production efficiency have not come without some negative side effects on animal well-being and longevity in production environments, including losses in reproductive efficiency, increased stress susceptibility, increased animal waste issues, and increased susceptibility to animal metabolic and infectious diseases. When considered in concert with societal concerns in the areas of natural resource conservation and protection, animal welfare, and food safety, it is clear that publicly supported agricultural research must be focused on enhancing the functionality and well-being of livestock and poultry in environmentally neutral production systems in the future.
Realizing the great potential for animal genomics to address these and other issues, a workshop was convened by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, DC in September of 2004. The workshop was entitled “Charting the Road Map for Long Term USDA Efforts in Agricultural Animal Genomics”. This paper summarizes the proceedings of the workshop and the resulting recommendations. The need for a cohesive, comprehensive long-term plan for all of USDA's research efforts in animal genomics was evident at the workshop, requiring further integration of the efforts of the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to achieve the greatest return on investment.
Keywords: Animal Genomics, Sequencing, Functional Genomics, Bioinformatics