Genomics Launched to UK Dairy Industry

UK - 2012 is the year that genomics will be available to dairy cattle breeders in the UK, confirmed Marco Winters, DairyCo breeding+ director, at the British Cattle Breeders Conference this week.
calendar icon 26 January 2012
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The April bull proofs will include genomic evaluations for the first time, giving a more accurate prediction of a young animal's genetic merit than has previously been available, and potentially increasing the speed of genetic progress.

"A young bull marketed as a 'genomic young sire' may be no better or worse than any other bull," said Mr Winters, "but the advantages of genomic evaluations come through their speed and accuracy.

"Through collaboration with North America and Italy we've been able to establish reliabilities of around 65 per cent on young bulls, which is nearly double that of a traditional young sire index, but breeders are reminded that this is still below that of most daughter proven bulls" he said.

"By having a more accurate assessment of animals at a young age, breeders can use the evaluations with more confidence. And by using the animal earlier, generation interval will be reduced. The extent of the genetic gain will depend on the uptake of genomic evaluations and which bulls farmers choose to use. Even a modest 15 per cent improvement in PLI would mean about £20 million for the British dairy industry over 10 years."

However, Dr Mike Coffey of SAC stressed the importance of having a good basic breeding programme in place in order to benefit from the availability of dairy genomic evaluations. "The reduction in generation interval means we'll be moving faster genetically," he said "so we must be sure that we're aiming in the right direction."

Asked if there was a potential for genomic evaluations to reduce the gene pool of the UK dairy industry, Mr Winters said that genomics could mean the opposite, "Genomic testing is significantly cheaper than progeny testing which could mean that more bulls can be screened prior to use in AI. We are also constantly monitoring inbreeding levels and genomics will help us to do that better."

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