New Era for Dairy Genomics

AUSTRALIA - The Australian dairy industry has entered a new genomic era in which dairy farmers are now able to make breeding decisions with confidence on genomic data alone.
calendar icon 25 June 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

After two years of intensive research work at the Dairy Futures Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), genomic profiling of 10,000 dairy cattle has achieved levels of reliability that make much more accurate predictions of how good a bull’s or a heifer’s genetics are for milk production, fertility and other traits that affect profitability.

On average the reliability of genomic breeding values for young bulls (with no daughters) is now equivalent to a bull proof with 30 milking daughters. The potential economic value of this new technology is estimated at A$100 million over the next 12 years.

On 14 June the Victoria Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, the Hon. Peter Walsh, joined dairy farmers, scientists and industry leaders on-farm at Maffra to celebrate this major milestone.

“This new level of genomic reliability for key traits confirms the creation of a viable, new market sector – genomically tested bulls with high levels of reliability under Australian dairy farming conditions,” said Dairy Futures CRC chief executive, David Nation.

In this new era, making breeding decisions with confidence on genomic information alone is set to become standard practice among dairy farmers, who stand to double the genetic gain in their herds; bringing forward the introduction of elite genetics by several generations and producing higher performing dairy cows earlier.

Based on overseas experience with genomics, the speed and scale of the uptake of this new technology is expected to be rapid. (In Ireland, less than two years after achieving similar levels of genomic reliability, 50 per cent of bulls used in dairy breeding programmes are now young genomic bulls.)

Professional breeders who market bulls here and overseas will be able to test a range of high performing bulls at a young age; potentially making these bulls more marketable and adding diversity to the sires available for breeding.

Dairy farmers purchasing natural sires will have access to a broader market of bulls that have been genomically tested.

Environmental factors and farming practices, which vary from country to country, have a critical impact on the performance of imported sires. Bull companies, the majority of which import semen from sires proven under US, Canadian, UK or European conditions, can now have their bulls genomically tested for performance under Australian conditions. The results can be provided quickly to assist them in deciding which bulls to market in Australia and give them an edge in their marketing programs.

The technology will give Australian dairy farmers, who already look globally for suitable international sires, greater confidence in selecting bulls that have been genomically tested for Australian conditions.

Genomics also present the industry with an opportunity to test for ‘outliers’; those animals that may have been overlooked previously but whose superior traits can now be identified through a simple DNA test.

For young dairy farmers entering the industry genomics presents an opportunity to build a quality herd rapidly, making dramatic improvements in performance by choosing elite young bulls on their genomic test alone.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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