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GENOMICS: Big Dollar Opportunities are Adding Up

Is the glass half-full or half empty?  The comment is often heard that genomics has yet to prove itself.   When index breeding for production traits came on the scene forty years ago, it too was seen as the new kid on the block.  In response,  The Bullvine has decided to compile a list of points could be considered significant dollar opportunities  Please note that these dollar values are derived from the Canadian situation but the general principles can be applied elsewhere.

Sample Only the Best Young Sires

Eliminating the need to sample the bottom 60% of 550 young sires (all breeds) will save the Canadian industry $16.5 M per year.  Add to that, eliminating the loss that producers bear when they must cull daughters of low genetic merit young sires and it is over $20M in savings by genomically testing all young sires and only sampling the top sires.

Turning Generations

Generation interval is extremely important in determining the rate of genetic advancement in a population of food producing livestock.  Shortening the generation interval, by using genomics to more accurately identify the top heifers and young bulls, will decrease the generation interval by one year, when 30% of the population is bred to young genomically tested young sires. That will increase the rate of genetic advancement by 25% per year.  However the rate of usage of genomically tested young sires is fast approaching 50% which equates to a reduction in generation interval of two years. This results in a 60% gain in genetic advancement.  Research has shown that that 60% gain is worth $30M annually for the traits that are currently included in the LPI formula.

Increased Accuracy

When considering the accuracy, with which we know the breeding values of the animal in a population, there are many points to consider:

  • Conducting a low density panel test on all heifer calves in a population of cows has a cost. It also has the benefit of having a totally accurate herdbook, no wrong assignments of parents and these help in genetic evaluations.
  • Knowing the genomic values for all females means that those genetic merit females can be used as recipients or can be fattened and sold for meat.

Identifying the elite females in a population greatly enhances the rewards that can be reaped from using only the best as dams of the next generation. Putting a dollar value on increased accuracy on the female side of a population is not easy to do but by The Bullvine’s calculation it would yield $20M per year in net terms for Canada’s dairy farmers.

Beyond Canada there are great populations of dairy cattle that contribute to the advancement of the genetic merit of dairy cattle everywhere.  Knowing the genomic values of these animals will greatly help North America advance their populations, especially for breeds with numerically smaller numbers.

Traits under Selection

As The Bullvine has reported (read Is Your Breeding Strategy a Field of Dreams) selecting for traits beyond milk, fat, protein, SCC and conformation will become possible with the use of genomics.  Already The Bullvine has learned from our followers that they look forward to knowing in genetic terms details for feed efficiency, production limiting disease resistance, calf health and liveability, reproduction traits and more.  Putting an industry dollar value on knowing the growth of those additional traits is not possible at this time.  But it will be quite a significant number.


This article will not spend time addressing inbreeding as it has been addressed previously in The Bullvine (read Inbreeding: Does Genomics Affect The Balancing Act).  Suffice to say at this time inbreeding can be handled when selection uses genomic values.  Not previously mentioned by the Bullvine on inbreeding is the fact that in dairy cattle populations beyond Holsteins there is considerable benefit to using genomics to select semen and embryos from outside a country’s borders.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So far in this article, The Bullvine has been able to identify over $70M to $100M in annual benefit to Canadian dairy breeders alone from the use of genomics.  That means $10,000 annually for each and every breeder.  So is the glass half full or half empty when it comes to using genomics? How do you see it?
The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

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  1. Generation Interval was the key ingrediant of the UK Moet program… flush those best heifers early etc. .Did it work no…..Shottle was the best ever to come out of the UK no thanks to the Moet program. .Chief Mark and Starbuck were the last sons of their sires in AI..yet they were the best…no thank to generation interval.

  2. There is one big assumption with all these dollar savings. That genomics really picks the best or worst ones out. If I have a VG or EX cow that makes 300 BCA she is much better than the GP with 200, yet the GP could well have higher genomics. So she is the one we should keep? LPI is a number on paper, unless she is the top one I don’t get paid by that number, I get paid by what’s in the tank. Genomics has it’s place, but I think cow families and common sense breeding still needs to play a large roll in out decisions. 

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