A review of current progress on the use of genomic evaluation in cattle breeding was just one of the subjects covered at the recent Cattle Breeders Conference, which was held in Telford in Shropshire on 20-22 January. The annual event is organised by the British Cattle Breeders Club.
DairyCo’s Marco Winters explained the principles behind genomics and reported that accuracy levels had lived up to expectations to date. The technology was first made available with the publication of DairyCo’s Holstein bull proofs in April 2012, with the evaluation of Holstein females launched last year. Other dairy breeds are expected to follow. Separately, the British Limousin Cattle Society is also involved in a project to produce genomic beef EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values) and information will be available in 2015.
Genomics is a method of refining the traditional evaluation system, which relies on pedigree information, performance recording and progeny assessment, Mr Winters told delegates. The new technique uses samples taken from nasal swabs or hair, with DNA analysed, to give an indication of future performance potential.
“I am not claiming that genomic predictions are 100% accurate, but our studies show that they are reliable and can be used successfully as a selection tool,” said Mr Winters. “The facility to predict future performance for a range of commercially important traits while the animal is very young helps to speed up genetic progress.
“Cattle breed societies are becoming more interested in the genetics of all commercial traits, as an animal’s appearance is only part of the picture. The price of genomic testing will come down and I predict that genomic evaluation will become routine for all cattle.”
Genomic evaluations for the British Friesians are due to be released this year, with breeders of Brown Swiss cattle collaborating in an international genomics project. DairyCo is currently seeking project partners for genomic evaluation partners for other breeds, added Mr Winters.