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What Happens If Genomics Doesn’t Work?

There has be so much talk lately, The Bullvine included, about how much the dairy breeding world has changed since the introduction of Genomics, that it has  me thinking, “What if genomics doesn’t pan out.  What if it doesn’t work as well as predicted?”

History is full of trends and inventions that the world thought would be amazing that in the end seemed nothing more than hype.  In recent history there has been foursquare (location based social network) and the Snuggie that, due to great marketing and an audience starved for something new, saw immediate rapid growth but lacked staying power.  Are genomics no better than the Snuggie?

While I must admit, I am sure there has been way more research and development behind genomics than there was behind the Snuggie, there are some significant areas that we have had to assume as musts that may turn out to bite us in the butt.  Such as:

  • Not a Perfect Science
    Because genomics are so new, this means that we have to operate on a number of assumptions.  As time goes on and more and more animals are tested, I am sure the accuracy will improve.
  • Limited Data
    While the ability to have genetic evaluations and recording systems provides genomics the ability to more accurately predict genetics merit far ahead of genomics in other animals or humans, it’s still in its infancy.  As more and more cattle are tested there will be more and more data to work from providing geneticists with greater accuracy in the systems they produce.
  • Hot House Effect
    While even we have written about how genomics has removed the hothouse effect (Has Genomics Knocked Out Hot House Herds?), does it really mean that it has been removed, or maybe it has just changed the game?  Maybe “shady” breeders just need to think of new ways to work the new system.

Is It Genomics or Is It You?

History is littered with wide scale aversion to new, disruptive technologies.  Thomas Edison turned down the radio because it had no commercial value; Western Union turned down the telephone because management thought ‘it will never be more than a toy’.  Can you believe that Thomas J. Watson Sr., founder and head of IBM, turned down the computer; and Kodak turned down the Xerox copier.  This makes me think of how many old school breeders are pissing on genomics (Old School Dairy Breeders – STOP PISSING ON GENOMICS) maybe more because of fear of change, than anything else.

May be you should also stop listening to the radio, talking on the telephone or taking pictures?  Now tell me how many cattle you’ll be marketing?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There are no guarantees in life (well, I guess I should say with the exceptions of   death, taxes) and genomics is no different.  Genomics is not a perfect science, yet.  However, it does have a very sound scientific basis that, as time goes on, can be refined and enhanced.  For those who are afraid of genomics I ask you, are you afraid of genomics, or are you afraid of change?
The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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  1. Genomics is a great new tool.  But the bulls now selected based on genomics are the same bulls that would be selected for testing by bull studs anyway.  In the past a bull had to have a first daughter proof to reach 70% rel and a lot looked good till more daughters were added and most were just average at best with a few better and a very few best. 

      My hope is genomics will seperate best litter mates to try and  have a better percentage of bulls graduate to full service.  But most will be average, a few will be better and a rare few will be really good.   Breed the best genomic bull in the world to the best genomic female and usually you will get an average bull.

    Johnny Stansell

    • Just a thought….   Does anyone have a good plus maybe very good cow up to 84-86 points who can breed the best bull of the breed today who can make 800+ excellent daughters (Goldwyn)?  Or can you recommend a 95 point cow to breed to produce an inferior bull third favored of his litter mates and become the best bull of the breed for type and very acceptable milk production (Durham). 

      Genomics might answer our questions in 30 years and pin point the next great bull.  I say continue the study but get real, a 70% proven bull is not a proven bull.  A 70% proven bull with NO DAUGHTERS is less than a 70% proven bull with daughters.

      Genomics as proven for a sale of heifers or bulls, or proven bull prices of semen is not a good thing.   But milk it for all it’s worth if you please.  Integrity is a bit lost don’t you think?

      Johnny Stansell

  2. We  questioned genomics when they first came out and still do today.  We have been trying to land a bull in the studs for many years, but they always fell short at same point.  Since the genomics  we have been able to get there.  We are left wondering if the genetics are there, and just need a better way to find the potential in an animal? Just my  thoughts.

  3. The dawn of genomics was when herdmate comparisons were first made. We could not see the genes or SNPs, but we could seen the difference in genetics and environment, so we were sampling genes indirectly. All those data over 40+ years is what made genomics possible in the dairy industry. If we had gene sequences on every bull and no historical performance data on daughters of bulls, we’d be just beginning to crawl instead of running. Look at what the corn and soybean growers have done. Are there any successful corn or soybean breeders not using genomics?

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