China looks to Canada to improve cattle genetics

A recent agreement to exchange information on cattle genetics, beef marketing and technology could be the beginning of a sound relationship between Canada and China.

A memorandum of understanding over four years between the Canadian Beef Breeds Council and the Beef Cattle Research Center of China Agricultural University was signed in November.

“The exact details of how we will work that out are still in process,” said Michael Latimer, manager of the beef breeds council, which represents the Canadian purebred industry.

“They are interested in genomics and how to set up evaluation programs like our EPDs. They don’t really have registered breeding stock like we have.”

Chinese producers are not likely to set up breed associations but want to find ways to incorporate genomics into their selection.

“They want to use Canadian genetics as the base. The Canadian system is the model they work off,” said Latimer.

The agriculture university is in Beijing and is building a nearby model farm. Research, education and a commercial aspect will be part of the program.

“It will become the model farm for other farms to replicate.”

China wants to improve its domestic cattle herd, although it is unlikely to ever be self-sustaining. Imports of beef from countries such as Canada will continue.

Canada was allowed to ship live animals to China until BSE closed borders, but imports are now restricted to beef.

“There has been almost a generation lost that has not had live cattle relations with Canada, so we are looking to re-establish those relationships,” Latimer said.

Embryos and semen are permitted, but the government handles imports and distributes the products to farms rather than breeders.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu witnessed the signing of the memorandum during a recent Canadian government trade mission to China. It is rare for both ministers to witness the signing of these kind of agreements, which promised co-operation in:

  • exchange of genetic resources, science and technology
  • market promotion of beef cattle
  • talent capacity building

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