Extending genomic testing to female line

Farmers are familiar with the success of genomic testing for early identification of high quality young sires, compared to the time consuming system of progeny testing which was used years ago.

The good news is that genomic testing is now available for the females in the herd enabling farmers not only to effect genetic improvement quickly but also more accurately.

A number of vets in Northern Ireland are now offering a genomic testing service for dairy farmers, providing them with information on heifer genetics that is 50-70% reliable compared to a reliability of 15-30% when using information based on parent average alone.

Aurelie Moralis, Veterinary Consultant with Zoetis explains: “The genetic make-up of a heifer is inherited from both parents and while farmers have achieved a lot of improvement in various aspects by recording the physical attributes of the parents in order to make mating decisions, they cannot account for what genetic material was actually inherited.”

Aurelie went on to say that a genomics package called CLARIFIDE® is now being offered to dairy farmers by their veterinary surgeon. Initially the CLARIFIDE trained vet will hold a consultation with the farmer to review performance and support the farmer to set breeding objectives for the herd. The breeding objectives determine which traits a farmer wishes to improve in the herd through breeding.

She continued: “From this consultation a breeding strategy will be outlined which is bespoke to the individual farm. When genomic testing is implemented, through hair or tissue sampling, the results will be reviewed against the breeding objectives and farm system. The CLARIFIDE trained vet can then support the farmer to make strategic breeding decisions in conjunction with the breeding advisor using genomic data to identify bulls that complement existing strengths and address apparent weaknesses.”

Aurelie Moralis emphasised: “The parent average of a heifer is the average of the parents estimated genetic make-up and is therefore only a prediction of what the animal could inherit.

“The figures cannot account for what genetic material was actually inherited. Genomic testing can supply this information and enable the farmer to effect breeding and management improvements more quickly and more accurately.

“Genetics are a long term cost-effective investment – any genetic improvement is permanent and cumulative. The combination of the correct genetics and excellent management can yield outstanding results.”

Farmers who wish to discuss details of CLARIFIDE are invited to call at the Zoetis stand at the Winter Fair.