Genomics

Sept 21, 2016

Genomics for Breed Improvement - Genomics for Management

Genetic progress

The Jersey breed represents a very competitive 4% of the Canadian dairy market today and North America has the Jersey genetics needed to push the Jersey breed forward. In order to maintain our competitive edge and grow the number of Jerseys in Canada, Canadian Jerseys must be bred to be even more efficient, and produce even more milk solids. We just have to find those outliers, and get the most out of them! 

The best tools available

Genomic testing, when coupled with registration, milk recording, and classification, is the best way for the Jersey breed to make genetic progress. Genomic testing increases the accuracy of mating selections and identifies ideal herd replacements. By testing as many females as possible, we can increase the probability of finding the outlier genetics that have been transmitted in the Jersey population. As more and more females are tested, we cast a wider net, and this is how we will find the females who will springboard our breed ahead.

Genomic testing uses genetic information for a given animal, and compares her genome to a reference population with known phenotypes. A phenotype is the physical expression of a gene, such as actual milk production, milk components, and physical conformation. In essence, a genomic evaluation is a way of saying, “Other Jersey cows with the same genomic markers as this heifer went on to produce ‘x’ kg of milk, at ‘y’ percent fat, and ‘z’ percent protein, and had a productive life of ‘xx’ years. It is safe to say that this heifer will too.” 

Traditionally, well-managed farms have low culling rates, and thus the most common reasons for culling is infertility, poor physical conformation, or poor production. This means that such females remained in the herd until at least breeding age, if not well into their first or second lactation. That is a long time to spend money on an unprofitable animal! 

Genomic testing is a great tool to help you identify the unprofitable females much sooner. There is no minimum age for testing, so the earlier you cull the heifers that aren’t going to move your herd forward, the more rearing costs you save. This is the best way to make genomic testing work for you. Read more …

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