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Open Access Research article

Compilation of a panel of informative single nucleotide polymorphisms for bovine identification in the Northern Irish cattle population

Adrian R Allen1*, Malcolm Taylor1, Brian McKeown2, April I Curry1, John F Lavery1, Andy Mitchell2, David Hartshorne2, Rüdi Fries3 and Robin A Skuce1

Author Affiliations

1 Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Stoney Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT4 3SD, UK

2 Orchid Cellmark, 16 Blacklands Way, Abingdon Business Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 1DY, UK

3 Lehrstuhl fuer Tierzucht, der Technischen Universitaet Muenchen, Alte Akademie 12, D-85354 Freising-Weihenstephan, Deutschland/Germany

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BMC Genetics 2010, 11:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-5

Published: 25 January 2010



Animal identification is pivotal in governmental agricultural policy, enabling the management of subsidy payments, movement of livestock, test scheduling and control of disease. Advances in bovine genomics have made it possible to utilise inherent genetic variability to uniquely identify individual animals by DNA profiling, much as has been achieved with humans over the past 20 years. A DNA profiling test based on bi-allelic single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers would offer considerable advantages over current short tandem repeat (STR) based industry standard tests, in that it would be easier to analyse and interpret. In this study, a panel of 51 genome-wide SNPs were genotyped across panels of semen DNA from 6 common breeds for the purposes of ascertaining allelic frequency. For SNPs on the same chromosome, the extent of linkage disequilbrium was determined from genotype data by Expectation Maximization (EM) algorithm. Minimum probabilities of unique identification were determined for each breed panel. The usefulness of this SNP panel was ascertained by comparison to the current bovine STR Stockmarks II assay. A statistically representative random sampling of bovine animals from across Northern Ireland was assembled for the purposes of determining the population allele frequency for these STR loci and subsequently, the minimal probability of unique identification they conferred in sampled bovine animals from Northern Ireland.


6 SNPs exhibiting a minor allele frequency of less than 0.2 in more than 3 of the breed panels were excluded. 2 Further SNPs were found to reside in coding areas of the cattle genome and were excluded from the final panel. The remaining 43 SNPs exhibited genotype frequencies which were in Hardy Weinberg Equilibrium. SNPs on the same chromosome were observed to have no significant linkage disequilibrium/allelic association. Minimal probabilities of uniquely identifying individual animals from each of the breeds were obtained and were observed to be superior to those conferred by the industry standard STR assay.


The 43 SNPs characterised herein may constitute a starting point for the development of a SNP based DNA identification test for European cattle.