Scarsdale Vets Leads The Way In Using Pioneering Genomic Testing Technology

Genomic testing technology used to improve herd performance for local cattle farmers

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Scarsdale Vet’s farm team has always been a source of scientific advice as well as veterinary expertise to its clients. Now, over the last year Scarsdale Vets has become one of the only veterinary practices in the UK to offer state-of-the-art genomic testing of cattle to help farmers increase their long-term profitability, by allowing them to accurately predict key traits such as lifespan and fertility. Within the last 12 months, eight farms across the region are already benefitting from this innovative programme.

The test, called CLARIFIDE®, provided by Zoetis (a global animal health company) uses genomic analysis to look at the DNA of an animal to predict its future performance and that of its offspring. As well as improving milk yields and quality, it can also accurately predict health and fitness traits such as lifespan, fertility and resistance to disease.

Rose Jackson, Partner and bovine fertility expert at Scarsdale Vets explains: “Farmers know their stock really well and often choose which heifer will breed with a bull based on visual assessment, pedigree and their knowledge of their animals. By using CLARIFIDE® we take the guesswork out of that decision and help maximise the potential of the herd.”

CLARIFIDE® is the market leader in genomic testing of cattle in the USA, with a focus and expertise in testing heifers on commercial dairy farms. Last year, Zoetis, in partnership with RAFT Solutions Ltd, the research arm of XLVets, launched CLARIFIDE® in the UK. Scarsdale Vets is now one of 20 XLVets practices offering the CLARIFIDE® service to its clients.

The service involves regularly testing young heifers before they are of breeding age. The data produced is then inputted into a comprehensive reporting tool, enabling a bespoke report to be produced for each farm. The report aligns the genomic results with the farm’s long-term breeding objectives and plans for the future. This enables farms to develop a unique breeding strategy for each animal to allow them to effectively plan their resources.

Rose Jackson continues: “Genomic technology has been used widely in the artificial insemination (AI) industry to select the best bulls for breeding, based on their genomic traits, a technique most farmers are familiar with. However, we want to take our clients one step further by using CLARIFIDE® to test the females in the herd, as it is estimated that genomic data can more accurately predict future performance by 65-70%, vs 25-30% using the more traditional approach. I am delighted that Scarsdale Vets is already working with eight farms in our region using this innovative new system, and they are already very happy with the information that we are providing, and can see the long-term benefits of CLARIFIDE®”

Rose Jackson, whose areas of clinical interest have long focussed on cattle fertility, including bull fertility examinations, jumped at the opportunity to offer genomic testing to Scarsdale Vets’ farm clients. After a successful pilot year, Rose is now on the training team for new veterinary practices wanting to offer CLARIFIDE®, by sharing best practice such as which farmers are most likely to benefit, and providing tips for successfully launching CLARIFIDE® at practice level.

Richard and Val Wedd, who run a dairy farm locally to Scarsdale Vets in Derbyshire, have been using CLARIFIDE® over the last year, and say: “We have already used genomic bulls for improving our herd of 150 cows, but we knew that bulls were only half of the equation. We wanted to be able to choose the best heifers to serve with the best Holstein semen, and our CLARIFIDE® report gives us the meaningful set of results we need. We have been pleasantly surprised by the results so far; some heifers from not particularly good-looking cows (who wouldn’t normally have been served to Holstein) had some high £PLI (Profitable Lifetime Index) values, and some better-looking heifers, who would normally have been served to Holstein, showed a lower £PLI value, so we are really pleased with how this new technology is already helping inform our decisions.”

Scarsdale Vets farm team will be attending the British Cattle Breeding Conference in Telford, 22-24 January, along with Phil Cullinan, Genomics Business Manager for CLARIFIDE® in the UK as well as Dr. Dan Weigel, PhD geneticist & Holstein breeder from Zoetis USA.

Phil Cullinan concludes: “Scarsdale Vets have been a great advocate of CLARIFIDE® from the beginning. We are delighted that eight of their farms have signed up for CLARIFIDE® over a short period of time, clearly highlighting the demand that exists for veterinary-led genomic testing in the UK. As time progresses and more farmers become aware of the benefits the system can bring, we hope to see an ever-wider uptake of CLARIFIDE® and more farmers maximising returns from their herds.”

Visit: http://www.scarsdalevets.com/farm/ to find out more about Scarsdale Farm Vets, and www.clarifide.co.uk to find out more about CLARIFIDE®, or email phil.cullinan@zoetis.com.

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