Genomic testing heifers and breeding replacements from the best should be a ‘no-brainer’ considering the potential improvements in genetic gain up for grabs.
All farmers have to tag calves so why not build routine genomic testing into the same process and use the information to speed up genetic gain? According to Cogent’s global business development manager Rudolph Linde, genotyping every female should be viewed as a ‘no-brainer’ considering the information it provides.
He says: “Don’t just look at genomics as a cost, but also as an opportunity cost of not doing it.” Genomics enable you to establish the genetic potential of a heifer from a young age (see ‘Why genomic test?’ panel, p5), thus allowing you to make informed, accurate breeding decisions.
In this way, you only breed from the best; driving genetic gain and saving time and money associated with rearing lower value animals.
Better reliability and accuracy are some of the main advantages of basing decisions off a calf’s actual genetics, rather than parent average.
From Mr Linde’s experience, genomic testing often re-ranks animals; commonly flagging up animals which are better than their parent average or sometimes worse (see table 1).
For example, females originally ranked on PA £PLI, with a genetic merit high enough to be served to sexed semen had a lower genetic merit upon genotyping, resulting in females being served to beef.
Conversely, females deemed genetic inferior on PA £PLI were, in fact, of a higher genetic merit upon receiving a more reliable, genomic evaluation and therefore were recommended to be served to sexed semen.
“Without genomics, you wouldn’t know their true value,” he says.
“It’s all about accuracy and reliability of decision-making.”
Genomic testing enables an animal’s genetic potential to be predicted from a young age by comparing its DNA to a ‘key’ which is representative of the national bovine population for a specific breed.
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