MU, Texas A&M receive grants for cattle research

Friday, April 15, 2011 | 2:16 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Research teams at MU and Texas A&M University received two agricultural grants Friday morning worth a total of $14.2 million.

Jerry Taylor, chairman of animal genomics in the MU agriculture department, will be project director for a five-year, $5 million grant to study feed efficiency in cattle. James Womack, a professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M, will be the project director for a $9.2 million grant to study bovine respiratory disease.

The two universities will work together on the grant projects, which they were selected for by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Taylor said the grants were competitive, and MU and Texas A&M were chosen because of the quality of the scientists chosen for the project and the quality of the science, which involves cutting-edge technology.

Taylor's project will involve studying how genetic differences in cows affect their food intake, as well as identifying bacteria and microbes that help cows in digesting their food, according to a news release from MU.

"Based upon the work we've done with (gene technology) in the last two years, we firmly believe ... that we will be able to translate technology to the beef and dairy industries in the United States and worldwide within the span of this grant," Taylor said.

Roger Beachy, the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, said the Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that food production needs to be increased by 100 percent in the next year to avoid problems in food security.

Another way of doing that is by combating diseases in cattle, he said.

Cattle with bovine respiratory disease stop eating, lose weight and require treatment, according to the release. The agricultural industry loses almost $700 million a year because of the disease.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Agricultural Appropriations Committee, also stressed the importance of meeting the challenges of the agricultural industry, from remaining competitive in a global economy to providing enough food.

"These projects and others are saying, 'Let's see what we can do that makes the most sense for the country, and let's have the scientific basis that proves that,'" Blunt said.

About 30 to 40 beef industry stakeholders and university stakeholders gathered inside the MU Beef Research and Teaching Farm to hear the announcement.

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