Ge­nomic screen­ing helps build bet­ter herd

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

DNA anal­y­sis is help­ing to iden­tify top Hol­stein Friesian heifers to aid the de­vel­op­ment of elite cow fam­i­lies and bulls for the dairy in­dus­try.

Hol­stein Friesian New Zealand’s (HFNZ) Dis­cov­ery Pro­ject, spon­sored by farmer owned co-op Live­stock Im­prove­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, is a scheme that HFNZ mem­bers can en­ter to help iden­tify top heifers to en­sur­ing their full po­ten­tial is used.

This is the first time ge­nomic screen­ing has been avail­able, tra­di­tion­ally heifers were nom­i­nated and se­lected based on their an­ces­try.

LIC breed­ing man­ager, Al­lan McPher­son said the in­tro­duc­tion of ge­nomic se­lec­tion pro­vides the pro­gramme with a huge boost by help­ing iden­tify those heifers with the high­est po­ten­tial more ac­cu­rately.

‘‘More ac­cu­rate se­lec­tion of heifers means a bet­ter chance of suc­cess from the pro­gramme and there­fore a higher prob­a­bil­ity of pos­i­tively im­pact­ing the breed,’’ he said.

‘‘ HFNZ mem­bers get ac­cess to LICs ex­per­tise and the best bulls for breed­ing and are now able to tap into the huge re­source of ge­nomics science that LIC has de­vel­oped and in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars into.’’

The pro­ject also al­lows their heifers to be benchmarked against other elite an­i­mals around the coun­try, pro­vid­ing them with ac­cess to the lat­est re­pro­duc­tive tech­nolo­gies and the op­por­tu­nity for their heifer to be recog­nised as a po­ten­tial bull mother, Mr McPher­son said.

HFNZ gen­eral man­ager Cher­i­lyn Wat­son said ge­nomics would fur­ther en­hance the suc­cess the pro­ject has achieved over the last seven years.

‘‘Hol­stein Friesian New Zealand breed­ers are ex­cited at the op­por­tu­nity to get ge­nomic in­for­ma­tion on the elite fe­male heifers in their herds and see how the in­for­ma­tion trans­lates when the heifers calve down and are milked for their first sea­son,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ll fol­low the progress of these heifers through their first sea­son in-milk and con­tinue to mon­i­tor them over the next few sea­sons when they re­turn to their home herds.’’

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if the ge­nom­i­cally se­lected heifers stand out from their herd mates, she said.

Heifers ac­cepted into the pro­gramme are taken as in-calf two-year-olds from farms across the coun­try, and brought to­gether to a host farm in Te Awa­mutu for one sea­son.

Dur­ing this time, the heifers are herd tested eight times, con­di­tion scored reg­u­larly and eval­u­ated on a range of cri­te­ria to help iden­tify their true merit.

Farm­ers can now se­lect up to five heifers to be ge­nom­i­cally screened for the scheme, pro­vid­ing them with more con­fi­dence that only their best heifers are then se­lected to par­tic­i­pate

In­for­ma­tion from each screened heifer, re­gard­less of whether they are ac­cepted into the pro­gramme, is given back to the farmer for fu­ture ref­er­ence

A cur­rent top bull for LIC, West­land CL Jasper, re­sulted from the in­au­gu­ral sea­son of the Dis­cov­ery Pro­ject in 2004.

Jasper joined the 2010 Premier Sires bull team af­ter re­ceiv­ing a suc­cess­ful daugh­ter eval­u­a­tion through the Sire Prov­ing Scheme.

Al­lan McPher­son said the Dis­cov­ery Pro­ject has con­tin­ued to pro­vide sires for LIC with a num­ber of bulls await­ing their daugh­ter proofs at present or have al­ready been se­lected for DNA proven teams.

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