- Open Access
Hanwoo cattle: origin, domestication, breeding strategies and genomic selection
- Seung-Hwan Lee†1,
- Byoung-Ho Park†2,
- Aditi Sharma†1,
- Chang-Gwon Dang1,
- Seung-Soo Lee2,
- Tae-Jeong Choi2,
- Yeon-Ho Choy2,
- Hyeong-Cheol Kim1,
- Ki-Jun Jeon1,
- Si-Dong Kim2,
- Seong-Heum Yeon1Email author,
- Soo-Bong Park2 and
- Hee-Seol Kang1
© Lee et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014
- Received: 7 April 2014
- Accepted: 7 April 2014
- Published: 15 May 2014
Hanwoo (Korean cattle) is the native, taurine type of cattle breed of Korea and its history as a draft animal dates back to 5000 Years. In earlier times Hanwoo was used extensively for farming, transportation. Over the period of time, Hanwoo has changed to be meat type cattle. Full-scale production of Hanwoo as meat-type cattle has occurred since 1960s with the rapid growth of the Korean economy. Hanwoo is one of the most economically important species in Korea as it is a significant source of nutrition to the Korean people. Hanwoo beef is the most cherished food of Korea. One of the main goals of researchers is to increase the meat quality, quantity and taste of the beef. In this review we describe the origin, domestication of Hanwoo cattle and breeding program initiated from 1980’s. Moreover the advent of technological advancement had provided us a platform to perform genome wide selection on economic traits and its implementation into traditional breeding programs.
- Hanwoo (Korean cattle)
- Domestication and breeding program
Korea along with Hanwoo has a market for imported beef from Australia, USA, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico as well (KMTA, ). When Hanwoo beef was compared with the Australian Angus, it showed characteristic compositional and quality differences that should result from genetic and environmental differences between them . Hanwoo is lower in cholesterol compared to other beef. It also has a higher omega 3 fatty acid count which makes it healthier than beef from other cattle. Taste-wise, it’s very soft, juicy, and delicious. The marbling in Hanwoo steak is excellent as well and it has the right balance of meat and fat. Korean consumers decided their overall acceptability of Hanwoo beef are as follows: weights of tenderness 55%, juiciness 18%, and flavor-likeness 27% . No wonder Korean consumers, despite the high price prefer Hanwoo beef to the imported one. In order to produce high quality Hanwoo beef along with specially designed breeding programs special care and feed strategies are deployed.
The major goal of researchers is to increase both the quality (Marbling, tenderness and flavor) and the quantity (Carcass weight) of the meat to benefit the Hanwoo beef industry. Therefore, the current selection index used in Korea Proven Bulls (KPN) program is based on 1) carcass weight on marbling score 2) the comparison on carcass weight. In order to support the beef industry along with the conventional selection program, the genomic selection is also being incorporated in selection and breeding programs. In the present review we discussed the origin, domestication, breeding strategies and genomic selection in Hanwoo cattle.
Origin and Domestication
Population genetic parameters in Hanwoo
Hanwoo breeding program
Marbling score (MS), carcass weight (CWT), eye muscle area (EMA) and back fat thickness (BF) are the traits to impact Korean beef industry the most. Therefore the selection index for Korea Proven Bulls uses eye muscle area on marbling score and their comparison on CWT.
Park et al.  carried out a study to determine the trend of improvement as well as the estimation of genetic parameters of the traits being used for seedstock selection based on the data collected from the past. In his study he concluded that the performance and progeny test based selection system of Korea is good enough to accommodate circumstances where fewer sires are used on many more cows. Although progeny tests take longer and cost more, they seem to be appropriate under the circumstances of the domestic market with its higher requirement for better meat quality. The study suggested accumulative data collection, genetic evaluation model development, revision of selection indices, as well as cooperation among farms, associations, National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, universities, research institutes and government agencies must be applied to the Hanwoo selection program. According to the Park’s study, the current progeny tested evaluation runs every 6 months to select KPN in Korea. The breeding program has achieved a substantial genetic improvement for CWT and EMA. However there has been just a slightly negative genetic response for MS with an -0.036 of genetic response per year .
We know conventional breeding methods rely on physical characteristics or phenotypes to calculate the breeding values (BV) of animals. The traditional methods are often not so accurate, inefficient and time consuming as most traits like meat quality are hard to measure and evident only when animal reaches maturity leading to a delay in verifying breeding results. With the advent of genome wide SNP panels we can overcome the drawbacks of the conventional breeding methods. Genome wide SNP panels will allow us to accurately and cost & time effectively determine the genomic estimated breeding values (GEBV) even in young animals and thus select animals at young age.
Genetic architecture for carcass trait in Hanwoo
Korean beef industry lay emphasis on meat yield and quality traits like carcass weight, marbling, intramuscular fat, eye muscle area. To identify the significant associations of SNPs with these traits can directly affect the selection of animals for a breeding program.
Also there are reports on GWAS studies on other traits of economical importance such as MS, IMF, EMA and sensory panel. Yi et al.  carried out a GWAS study to identify QTL for growth and carcass quality traits using high-density SNP panels. The data set comprised of 61 sires, their 486 steers, and the 54,001 SNP markers on 29 bovine autosomal chromosomes. Traits to be analyzed in this study were six growth and carcass quality traits including weaning weight (WWT), 365-d yearling weight (YWT), CWT after slaughter, BF, EMA, and MS. A total of 16(0), 18(4), 20(13), 11(23), 10(13) and 19(1) SNPs were detected at the 5% chromosome (genome)-wise level for the traits, WWT, YWT, CWT, BF, EMA and MS, respectively. Among the 148 SNPs, 91 SNPs had dominance effects, suggesting that dominance inheritance mode be considered in genetic improvement for growth and caracass quality in Hanwoo. Thirty five QTL regions on 17 Bos taurus chromosomes (i.e. BTA 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 26, and 28) were detected. Strong evidence for the QTL influencing CWT were detected on BTA14. Also, the QTL for WWT, YWT, BF, and EMA were detected on BTA20. The GWAS studies could thus greatly help in developing the selection strategies for breeding programs.
Genomic strategy for breeding scheme
Genomic selection (GS) employs selection of an individual based on the genomic breeding value assessed through evaluating all the genetic markers located throughout the genome of that individual. Thus, the underlying principle of GS is to exploit the linkage disequilibrium of the QTL with one or more genetic marker(s) . Molecular markers can be used to predict GBV of breeding animals by exploiting population-wide linkage disequilibrium between QTL and genetic markers spanned over the genome. The key–factor behind the success of genomic selection is to utilize the next generation sequencing approaches and the associated bioinformatics tools to identify the SNPs. Simulation studies in some domesticated species like, beef cattle, swine and chicken (Meuwissen et al., ) have suggested that the breeding values can be predicted with high accuracy using genetic markers alone but its validation is required especially in samples of the population different from that in which the effect of the markers was estimated. In genomic selection, the estimation of genomic breeding values is predicted to sum up all loci that are estimated based on phenotypes and genotypes in training population. This is particularly useful for traits that are very difficult to measure, such as marbling. The accuracy of these genomic predictions depends on the genetic architecture of the complex traits. For example, number of loci affecting the trait and distribution of their effects. In case of Hanwoo, MAS (Marker Associated Selection) and GS will provide a way to predict phenotype of marbling score as a preselection method that can be used in performance test .
Strategies for genomic selection program in Hanwoo
Accuracy of GEBV and traditional EBV estimated by 50 K SNP chip for Hanwoo cattle
Eye muscle area (cm2)
Back fat thickness (mm)
Marbling score (1 ~ 9)
Recent advances in molecular biotechnology facilitate not only detection of genes that contribute to genetic variation of quantitative traits but also incorporation of genomic information into a conventional animal breeding program. The incorporated molecular information into GEBV may achieve an improvement of EBV and selection accuracy in cattle populations. In conclusion, we suggest incorporating molecular information into the conventional breeding programs to achieve better results in comparatively shorter time. Including molecular information will be a step further to achieve higher standards of Hanwoo beef.
This study was supported by awards from the AGENDA project (Grant no. PJ907008062013) and Molecular Breeding program (PJ0081882013) of Next Generation BIOGREEN21 project in the National Institute of Animal Science, RDA.
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