Shortage of quantitative geneticists in animal breeding

Ignacy Misztal, University of Georgia


Many institutions report trouble finding qualified animal breeders. Please see editorial on shortage of quantitative geneticists in animal breeding:

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See a follow up 'Can we rescue an endangered species?' by Eugene J. Eisen from North Carolina State University:

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This topic was a theme of a special session at the 2008 Animal/Dairy Science meeting in Indianapolis. See abstracts at

My abstract (J. Anim. Sci. Vol. 86, E-Suppl. 2/J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 91, E-Suppl. 1 ) is below; for a presentation in the PDF format click here. As new information, plant genetic companies hire the best animal geneticists paying top salaries. Without extra steps, the shortage will be very expensive for breeding companies in the long term.



Challenges of training quantitative graduate students. I. Misztal and J. K. Bertrand, University of Georgia, Athens.

Acute shortage of quantitative geneticists (QG) in animal breeding has occurred in the U.S.; therefore, despite recruiting efforts, including those by professional companies, demands are not met. This is because the supply of quality graduates is low.

The QG shortage is partly a result of a past shift in funding from quantitative to molecular genetics. Consequently, new types of training were needed, notably in lab techniques. Now, as the molecular information becomes available through commercial products, the lab experience is less important, and the training required by current molecular geneticists has de facto become similar to those of quantitative geneticists. In particular, future success in the hot area of genomic selection will be largely dependent on scientists with quantitative skills: manipulating the genomic information requires quantitative skills and good genomic EBV requires good conventional EBV.

Several steps should be taken to provide more and talented graduates for animal breeding in QG.

Currently, the supply of QG Ph.D. candidates is limited and those applying often have limited background and motivation. One way of increasing the number of U.S. candidates is to substantially raise scholarships, at least to a level comparable to that paid at EU institutions. Many generic courses fail to excite students and specialized courses with low enrollment lack the critical mass. Replacement of these courses by short courses with specific focus can provide strong motivation to excel due to peer competition, while also creating a social environment among graduates from different institutions. As a student can easily be overwhelmed by too many courses, some semesters need to be designated for short courses only, and a mechanism to provide credits to students from non-home institutions needs to be worked out.

Finally, much larger competitive, special grants, and industry (including matching funds) QG funding should be made available to interested faculty, to provide incentives to departments to retain and hire more QG faculty.