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BARD 40 Year Review

Case Study 5: Increased Prolificacy in Domestic Sheep

Principal Investigators:  IS: Elisha Gootwine (Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center); US: Dave Thompson (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Goal: To increase prolificacy and lamb production in domestic sheep breeds.

Activities: Introgression of the Booroola sheep fecundity mutation by crossbreeding to the Awassi and the Assaf breeds in Israel and the Rambouillet breed in the US. 

Outcomes: Introgression resulted in two new prolific strains, the Afec Awassi and the Afec Assaf. With an average annual increase of 0.6 live births per ewe, the Afec Awassi has been successfully integrated into the Bedouin sector under intensive management. This has led to improvements in flock productivity and economic gains, as well as additional social benefits to the community such as increased literacy through documentation and tighter collaboration with veterinary services.

Economic Benefit: Net Present Value of BARD’s investment is estimated at $204 million, thereof $76 million already attained. Internal Rate of Return is 18%. Benefit-Cost Ratio is 65, thereof 25 already attained.

Capacity Building: 4 postgraduates were involved in the research projects supported by the 3 BARD awards between 1985 and 1993. Currently, 3 of them hold research positions in US academia and agricultural research stations.

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Case Study 6: Genetic Improvement of Economic Traits in Dairy Cattle

Principal Investigators:  IS: Joel Weller (Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center); US: Daniel Gianola (University of Illinois), George Wiggans (USDA – ARS), Ignacy Misztal (University of Georgia)

Goal: To map quantitative trait loci (QTL) that affect traits of economic importance in dairy cattle, such as milk, fat and protein production, by means of genetic markers. The aim was to introduce the genetic information into cattle breeding selection schemes. 

Activities: Novel designs to identify QTL-marker linkages for genes with relatively small quantitative effects were developed using genotypes and phenotypes of sire and offspring. The research led to the understanding that genetic improvement can be enhanced through genomic selection using genetic markers covering the whole genome, a methodology made possible by the advent of SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) arrays and adoption of genomic evaluation in the US and Israel since 2009 and 2015, respectively.

Outcomes: Genomic evaluation has increased rates of genetic improvement of over 30 major traits included in the dairy cattle selection indices. The annual milk gain has increased twofold.

Economic Benefit: The attribution to BARD is based on the degree to which the genomic selection technique was expedited due to the research outcomes. Collection of DNA from all bulls in the US and Canada was evaluated as hastening genomic implementation by one year. The experience with marker assisted selection advanced the statistical methods used for genomics by 6 months. Based on these 2 outcomes, the benefits attained to date were reached 1.5 years earlier than a counterfactual scenario without BARD. This part of the total Net Present Value of the benefits was attributed to BARD.

Net Present Value of BARD’s investment is estimated at $1,135 million, thereof $248 million already attained. Internal Rate of Return is 25%. Benefit-Cost Ratio is 264, thereof 59 already attained.

Capacity Building: 18 postgraduates were involved in the research supported by the 6 BARD awards between 1985 and 2018. Currently, 5 of them have academic positions, 3 in Israel and 2 in the US. Another 1 is in the biotech industry.

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