ARS Animal Improvement Programs Lab Honored
by Government Executive
By Hank Becker
BELTSVILLE, Md., Dec. 11--Government Executive magazine has presented
the Agricultural Research Services
Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory here with one of its
1998 Government Technology
Leadership Awards. The award was presented earlier this month at the Reagan
International Trade Center in Washington.
The award recognizes ARS' Animal
Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) for initiating a project that
increases the rate of genetic improvement of dairy cows. To achieve this,
scientists at the lab--led by geneticist H. Duane Norman--provide breeders with
timely information to identify dairy cattle with the highest genetic merit.
The Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory is responsible for
evaluating the genetics of dairy cattle. This information is vital to dairy
breeders and breeding companies looking for the next generation of the U.S.
milking herd, said Caird Rexroad, ARS Associate Deputy
Administrator for Animal
Production, Product Value and Safety.
Genetic merit of over 11 million dairy cows is estimated each year,
requiring the AIPL staff to process over 60 million milk records. These
evaluations are available to 38,000 U.S. dairy breeders, 100
artificial-insemination organizations, 65 extension specialists, 6 dairy
records processing centers, and hundreds of researchers in the United States
and many foreign countries.
AIPL's evaluation system reduces by one half the time between receiving the
incoming information and releasing the genetic evaluations to the industry.
Because of this gain--and the fact that the information is processed twice as
often--users receive the new data 11 weeks sooner than in the past.
Reducing the time of providing new information is one key way of
increasing the rate of genetic improvement," Rexroad said. The AIPL
project annually provides $60 million of additional value to dairy producers
and consumers while saving $85,000 a year at the laboratory.
AIPL reports the ranking data quarterly and makes the information available
to producers globally via its website (http://aipl.arsusda.gov). AIPL also provides
an electronic file-transfer system via the Internet for cooperating user
organizations and common files available to the general public.
In addition to Norman, the research leader, the AIPL staff includes
geneticists Rex. L. Powell, George R. Wiggans, Curtis P. Van Tassell and Paul
M. VanRaden; five support scientists and seven data-processing specialists.
For the last 7 years, Government Executive has named about 20
awardees yearly. This year, in addition to AIPL, Government Executive
honored 18 other awardees, including two other USDA groups, selected from nearly 200
nominations. Individual members of the groups cited received plaques at the
Scientific contact: H. Duane Norman, ARS, Animal Improvement Programs
Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural
Research Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8334, fax (301) 504-8092,