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Genomics revolution lifts dairy farm production

A high-tech revolution is occurring on Australian dairy farms but it’s not one that’s readily visible. The technology is not a bright, shiny piece of machinery, nor some fancy computer software.

But it’s embedded in almost every calf born on dairy farms and is having a profound impact despite being around for only a decade.

It’s genomics – the use of genetic information (in the form of DNA markers) to predict the performance of animals. This is being used to select the best performing animals from which to breed -both the bull sires bred by artificial breeding companies worldwide to supply semen to the dairy industry and the heifers and cows used by farmers to breed replacement animals.

Australian Professor Ben Hayes was one of the co-inventors of the genomic prediction technology and led much of the work that saw it adapted into the Australian dairy industry’s breeding values.

He told the Herd ’19 conference at Bendigo, Vic, in March that the technology had delivered on much of its early promise.

Farmers at both that conference and the Australian Dairy Conference in Canberra in February described how they were using genomic information as a routine part of breeding decisions on their farms.

But a word of warning was sounded at the Bendigo conference – with a Dutch herd improvement manager providing insight into unintended consequences of genomic selection.

Prof Hayes told the conference the idea that DNA could be used to identify the best performing animals had been researched since the 1960s.


Source: North Queensland Register

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