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What is genomics? Genetic gain Genomics influence on gain Benefits of using genomic technology How do I test my animal?

Genomics is the use of DNA to predict the future potential and profitability of dairy animals. This page explains how adding genomic information to your animal evaluations can guide you in making better breeding decisions, leading to quicker genetic gain in your herd. Genetic gain is the improved performance or quality of a population due to selective breeding. Genomics lets you identify superior animals at a young age and breed them for more desirable traits such as higher milk production, increasing productivity, profitability and sustainability. You can get genomic information through DNA testing by working with providers such as your breeding company.

Adding genomic information to your animal evaluations can help you make strategic breeding decisions to achieve faster genetic gain in your herd.

What is genomics?

Genomics is the breeding of dairy animals using genotypes (DNA) to predict an animal's future potential for future profitability.

It is the study of all of an animal’s genes; examining how the genes interact to influence the animal’s development and growth.

Using traditional animal evaluation methods of phenotypic data, for cows we have an idea of the traits from her parents, but we are dependent on her production information to determine how reliable this information is. Genomic information can better predict which production qualities an animal has inherited and provide a much more reliable BW at a younger age.

Genetics and environment are equally important in shaping an individual's phenotype (physical traits). The genetic component determines the potential for certain traits, while the environment can either enhance or suppress the expression of those traits.

Genetic gain - making each generation better than the last

Genetic gain is the improvement in performance or quality of a population because of selective breeding or genetic improvement programmes. Genetic gain is achieved by selecting individuals with the most desirable traits, such as higher milk production in dairy cattle, and breeding them with each other to create offspring with superior genetic characteristics.

A higher rate of genetic gain means that the population will produce more offspring with the desired traits in a shorter period of time. This can lead to higher productivity, increased profitability, and improved sustainability of the production system.

Genomics influence on genetic gain

Because we can pinpoint good bulls sooner, farmers can achieve a genetic gain faster in their herd when they use genomic-tested bulls in their breeding programme.

Broader use of genomic information in breeding programmes will help increase the rate of genetic gain for all kiwi farmers.

Find out more by visiting our Better Breeding Worth page.

Benefits for farmers of using genomic technology

Genomics helps farmers pinpoint their highest potential BW animals at a younger age to drive a high-performing herd best suited to their individual breeding objective.

Genomic technology provides powerful tools for improving genetic selection and breeding decisions. Here are some ways in which genomic technology can improve dairy cattle breeding programs:

  1. Identifying genetically superior/high BW animals: Genomic technology allows for the identification of animals with superior genetic potential at a young age, even before they have produced any offspring. By analysing the animal's DNA, genomics can identify the presence of specific genetic markers associated with desirable traits such as milk production, disease resistance, and fertility.
  2. Accurate genetic and parentage evaluations: Genomic technology improves the accuracy of genetic evaluations by increasing the amount of data available for analysis. With genomics, we can get accurate information on the genetic potential of an animal at an early age, which allows breeders to make better breeding decisions.
  3. Improved breeding values and efficiency: Genomic information can be used to calculate more accurate breeding values. This information can be used to select animals with the highest breeding values for specific traits, such as milk production, fertility, and disease resistance to breed animals that are more efficient at converting feed into milk.
  4. More targeted breeding: Genomic technology allows breeders to identify specific genes associated with desirable traits and incorporate them into breeding programs. This results in more targeted breeding that focuses on specific traits, rather than relying on overall genetic merit alone.
  5. Better animal welfare and disease resistance: Genomic technology can also help improve animal welfare by reducing the incidence of genetic disorders and breeding for traits that promote overall health and wellbeing.

Overall, genomic technology has the potential to greatly benefit the dairy industry by improving animal health, productivity, and sustainability, while also reducing costs and improving profitability for farmers.

How do I test my animal?

Your animal is tested from a sample, generally a tissue punch, which is analysed by a laboratory.

You can work with providers such as LIC, CRV, Samen NZ Ltd, STgenetics, Semex and World Wide Sires NZ to obtain genomic information through DNA testing for your herd.

Last updated: Feb 2024
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