From 1990 to 2003 scientists labored diligently to unravel the human genome. Understanding human genetics has helped us to understand many illnesses and how we can treat them, helping us improve human health. It didn’t take long for Genomics (the science of tracking genetics to make better decisions) to transition into the Dairy industry. Genomics is transforming dairy operations by helping farmers boost milk production, improve breeding practices, cut costs, and ultimately increase profitability.
To boost overall production in the dairy industry you need to have better management practices but you also need to have better cows. With this understanding, in the last three decades better breeding has boosted the annual milk production of dairy cattle significantly. However, there are some unintended side effects of selective breeding such as narrowing the gene pool which created inbreeding concerns. Genomics offers all the benefits of traditional selective breeding while helping to minimize the undesirable effects by identifying and tracking multiple traits that affect milk production. While there are no guarantees that populations will get better, steady improvements are achieved by deliberate decisions made over time.
Previously, to determine if a bull was a superior breeding animal you would have to wait for his offspring to produce milk. This took years and a significant amount of data to get reliable predictions of potential future milk production for any particular animal. Often, unproven sires were being used which resulted in a certain amount of females with a disappointing production record, and were culled early in their first lactation. Genomics will help you quickly identify your best animals and maximize their impact on the herd. Taking advantage of genomics in your breeding program, will allow you to:
- Make better decisions about sires or semen purchased.
- Test individual animals while they are very young, allowing you to make educated decisions on whether or not they will be a high producing animal.
- Use sexed semen to dramatically increase the likelihood of birthing female calves.
- Use embryos to literally control every pregnancy.
- Take advantage of other profit opportunities, such as breeding lower producing animals with beef semen so they can get a better price in the beef market.
As you know it takes a lot of money to raise a cow to a sexually mature milking age. It is quite an investment and genomics will make you a better investor. Using genomics allows you to calf higher producing animals as well as remove unprofitable calfs from the herd early on. By managing your turnover rate, you can make every pregnancy profitable and ensure you are only spending your feed and money on your better animals.
How Data Processing Contributes
Amelicor pioneered electronic dairy records and has been involved in them ever since. Because change only happens when action is taken, providing tools to help farmers make better management decisions is important. We believe that by providing (and understanding) data, our customers are given the ability to engage their employees and more effectively manage their herds.
Genomics has changed the pace of our industry. Since 2004 genetic traits routinely evaluated have gone faster than in the previous 100 years. We process records for over 1.5 million animals a month. These records go to the national database at the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDC) which runs the genetic evaluations. The genetic predictions are then sent back to the farms to help dairymen make better management decisions. With genomics, everything that can be measured is important. As more genetic information becomes available all of the previously measured information can be used to make better decisions. Over the years genetic information has expanded the number of points in our database providing farmers better feedback to take back to their dairies - and more importantly, increase profits!