Gerrit Jacob Kraay devoted his career to advancing agriculture through livestock parentage testing. As a pioneer, he developed statistical methods to follow the transmission of blood types through generations of cattle. Gerrit Kraay collaborated with colleagues the world over to expand the list of reagents for bovine blood from 35 to 65, making it possible to identify a greater number of characteristics in cattle while providing breeders with critical information. This was used to help breeders and breed associations maintain integrity of herd books, by determining and controlling parentage of animals.
Dr. Kraay understood the positive implications of maintaining Canadian pedigrees and associated Herd Books. His internationally recognized expertise in blood typing, solid credentials as a scientist and a commitment to the integrity of Canada’s livestock herd led Gerrit Kraay to become involved in the Canadian federal government objective to privatize livestock parentage testing services.
Gerry Kraay contended that the new service provider must be driven by the people it serves. He helped to create a partnership among six leading livestock organizations and the Saskatchewan Research Council to embrace the emerging science of DNA in parentage testing and verification in livestock. As manager of the Bovine Blood Testing Laboratory in Saskatoon, Dr. Kraay created and staffed a unique DNA testing laboratory as part of the then recently formed Bova-Can Parentage Testing Inc. This put Canadian agricultural science at the forefront of the new technology and ensured ongoing integrity of Canada’s purebred livestock industries.
While blood typing remained the world standard, Dr. Kraay’s leadership had Bova-Can laboratories storing DNA samples of Canadian livestock in the world’s first DNA bank. His work provided breeders with several generations of DNA data, giving Canada a marked advantage in parentage verification over others throughout the world. He worked internationally to bring the rest of the world to recognize test standards that often were developed under his direction at Bova-Can’s Canadian laboratory. The bank of DNA there has proven to be a valuable asset for research capability and for leveraging funds for research.
Dr. Kraay’s vision led to a computerized information system allowing full electronic exchange of information between laboratory and associations that record pedigrees. It also created continuous integrity for testing and recording pedigrees all through the process of introduction and use of artificial insemination and embryo transfer.
Gerrit Kraay is indeed a pioneer in the science of parentage verification through blood and DNA testing for cattle and other species and a deserved member of the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.