Whether you are struggling with fertility, longevity, protein production or just keen to improve your herd’s performance in any number of areas, genomic testing may be the way forward.
Dr Andrew Tyrer of Penbode Vets, Holdsworthy, Devon, says: “Improving your herd’s genetic make-up is crucial to its future profitability.
“When it comes to ensuring your future milking cows have the best possible genetic potential, bulls only form half the picture. To make sure you are keeping up with genetic progress in the UK herd it is crucial you are only breeding replacements from your genetically best heifers.
“Given the low reliability of using parent average predicted transmitting abilities to predict a heifer’s genetic merit, the only way to accurately determine which are your best heifers is via the genomic test.”
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The genomic test analyses and identifies the genotype of the heifer allowing accurate prediction of her genetic merit from a young age. It provides information on a huge range of traits, including various production parameters, as well as health, type, milk quality, fertility, efficiency and longevity.
Dr Tyrer says: “Before deciding to invest in the use of heifer genomic testing, it is crucial to sit down with your vet and determine what your own farm’s specific breeding objectives are. Then you can create a ranking system for tested heifers according to whether they fulfil those breeding objectives.
“If your priorities are to improve cow fertility and lifespan, your breeding objectives will be different to breeding for increased production. Therefore, you may decide those heifers with the highest genomic PTAs for fertility and lifespan are to be served with sexed semen while those lower down the ranking can be sold or served with beef semen.
It is then possible to determine what the likely return on investment will be. In the short-term this can be improved via reduced rearing costs of undesirable heifers and/or the use of beef semen on poor quality heifers. Long-term ROI will be gained through the breeding of heifers more suited to your farm’s requirements, which will produce the high quality product you want in larger volume and/or with greater efficiency.”