Genomic testing is changing the way we make management, selection and breeding decisions on farm.
It is now a year since we launched Clarifide, the veterinary led genomics package for dairy farmers.
We caught up with Richard and Val Wedd who were quick to realise the benefits of using genomics on their dairy heifers.
The Wedds milk 150 cows, which give an average lactation yield of 10,000kg and have an average calving interval of 380 days. The main management objectives are to expand the herd and also to convert to robots in the near future. Fertility index and udder traits were identified as important breeding objectives to build into the strategy as well as lifespan, locomotion and butter fat.
Heifers were initially ranked on PLI (Profitable Lifetime Index) and FI (Fertility Index) so that the top 90% are served to sexed semen and the bottom 10% to beef. As they only use sexed Holstein semen across the herd (50% of the cows are served to sexed semen if their £PLI is >200), it is important to be selective at £25 per straw (vs £10 for a triple blue beef straw).
The Wedds were already using genomic bulls so they were confident with the technology. As the bulls are only half of the equation, they wanted to be able to pick and choose their heifers in terms of who to serve to black and white and who to serve to beef. The Clarifide report gives a meaningful set of results to select from.
The Wedds are already happy with choosing their own bull semen and now it is nice to have individual proofs for the heifers too.
Results To Date
The Wedds have been pleasantly surprised by some of the results so far – there are some high £PLI heifers that were out of not particularly good looking cows that wouldn’t normally have been served to Holstein. Conversely, there have been some quite nice looking heifers that have come back as low £PLI!
These gains are additive over each generation as the £1010 difference in lifetime profit between the best and worst heifers will translate to a £505 difference, on average, between their daughters.
How Clarifide Genomic Testing Can Help
In addition to the production and health traits, Clarifide will identify carriers of a number of genetic recessive defects (Holstein Haplotypes 1-5 and Holstein Cholesterol Deficiency). Semen companies are obliged to publish whether their bulls are carriers of these defects but, until now, we didn’t know which heifers or cows were carriers. If you were to serve a carrier female to a carrier bull, early embryonic death would result from the majority of these matings which would have a detrimental effect on pregnancy rates.
To give you an idea of how common these defects are, 10 out of the 52 heifers sampled were carrying one of these traits. This information can be put in to a breeding program to make sure that the appropriate bulls are used on these heifers so that the highest pregnancy rates can be achieved. Clarifide will also assess the degree of inbreeding in each individual which again, helps us to choose the most appropriate bull.
Using genomics, a heifer’s genetic potential is revealed early in life, genetic progress can be accelerated with confidence and herd profitability is enhanced by capitalising on improved performance across a number of traits.
Get in touch to find out how we can use Clarifide to create a bespoke and comprehensive breeding package for your farm.