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Dairy Cattle Genomics: Have we taken it too far?

When you look at the top 10 GTPI heifers you see that 9 of them are from heifers themselves with only one coming from a scored and milk producing dam.  In addition 9 of them are from one sire (Shamrock), which instead of widening the genetic pool is actually shrinking it.  Looking at the top GLPI list reveals that three out of every four in the top 100 are from un-calved heifers.  While, on paper, cutting the genetic interval makes sense (read The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle for Genetic Supremacy), long term, have breeders and AI companies started to take it too far?

In the new genomic world the previous gold standard of a proven sire stack and string of VG+ is no longer required.  In any given pedigree you can now find GP cattle (read Is Good Plus Good Enough) or sires that you never have heard of.

Does Classification Even Matter?

While GP-84-2YR used to be the kiss of death for many marketing and genetic programs, genomics has changed the game.  With genomics, we are seeing many GP 83 or 84 cows used as dams that would have never been touched before.  While many will increase in score later in life, others do not, and yet that does not seem to be as big a factor.  Many A.I. companies and breeders are more concerned about their genomic values than that of the actual classification scores.

There could be many reasons why that potential bull mother did not score very good.  It could be management, it could be an accident that happened.  Also, it could be that she is just not that good.  It brings into question the relevance of classification.  While the index system relies on having a large data set in order to map the genomes to the potential performance of each trait, it has me thinking do we need to score cattle anymore or can we just use their genomic values?  Then I snap back to reality and realize that it’s one thing to look good on paper and another to deliver in reality.

Have We Forgotten Sire stack?

At one time, if there was a non -known sire in the pedigree, A.I. would not touch it.  The marketability of that pedigree was next to nothing.  No matter what the classification score was, or what the family was behind that animal, sire stack carried significant weight.  Now I find myself having to do as much homework on the sire of the new top young sires, as I do on the young sires themselves.  That may be because most of them are still young sires themselves.  However, it is also because a young sire that did not turn out can still sometimes be better than a previous Top 10 proven sire.

For example, let’s say the proven sire has a TPI of 2300 at the time of mating and the young sire being used as sire of sons has a TPI of 2900.  By the time the resulting progeny is being sampled the proven sire may have a TPI of 1750, and the young sire that was being used as a sire of sons may have a TPI of 1850.  While that young sire may not be a list topper anymore, he is still higher than the proven sire that could have been used at the time.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy cattle industry has seen more change in the selection of parents in the past four years than at in any other period in its history.  Genomics has changed the name of the game, and while many breeders have been apprehensive in embracing it, others have taken it and are running full force.  I would not be surprised to see more significance in the future put on Direct Genomic Values (DGV’s) than on the weighted GLPI or GTPI.  With everything that is new, there is a learning curve and, as we discover how to use this tool better, I am sure we will find better ways to apply the information.  However, there is no question that genomics is here to stay and it is greatly changing the rate of genetic gain.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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  1. It wouldn’t hurt to say a heifer or bull isn’t officially ranked until their reliability is  for ex >65%.  By a time a heifer is breeding age they should have more info behind them and reach the minimum reliability %.

  2. On your point about GP – 84/83, you need only look at one cow Sunnylodge Prelude Spottie. Now ask yourself again is GP good enough? ;)

    •  Matt,
        While Spottie did not go 87 points till her 2nd laction, she also did not get contracts till after that either.


  3. This genomic thing is going to go off the tracks because the people not doing ivf on seven month old heifers won’t keep up. The drought in the U.S. Is going to put a lot of people out of business this year. In less then a month lots of cattle for sale no feed. When the money dries up hopefully what she is will still be important.

  4. Look at the dam of Marbri Facebook… GP80; scored Good on Mammary… if the classifier was doing their job, that cow should have never even made GP.. So why people flushed cows to him is beyond me.. I’m waiting for the fallout and many of these sires to crash and burn…  In the end the breeders will decide, however there are many making alot of money off these one hit wonders

  5. I have never tested one of our animals and don’t plan on it.The real breeders know it is the blood of great long lasting cow families that still make the true breeding individuals.The wheels will come off the wagon and it won’t be long either.It really is a shame to the breed that we have to go through this faze.  David A. Tait

  6. Genomics should be used for gentic gain by finding the young sires that our below parent avg. or a large minus and not use them . Than if all the people who believe in the formula use the high  bulls all on a equal footing than the end user i.e. breeder or dairyman would get to evaluate the best cattle . What has happened is money . A.I. (not all A.I) has made a bussiness model to sell to large operations with population gentics. They say us a broad sampling of bulls (to protect yourself when the formula is wrong ) in that way they (a.i) don’t have the waiting period alot less cost and just keep on changing the formula so that it is never wrong . They are flushing high heifers starting there own brand and bloodlines . Genomics if used right would be great, flush a cow find what calves do what she did and breed from there. The only way this will change is if we make change . I put like this . We don’ spend half as much as the NFL spends on studing there draft picks . But after all there work and money they pick players they think are the best . After that it is up to the player where ever picked 1st. 2nd 3rd round to perform . We in our present way of doing things won’t allowed to find out until it is to late .It would be saying that Jamarcus Russel a number one pick is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he did’nt make two years because of lack of performance. If sience believes in what they say let it be proven through the sience of performance .    

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