Farm Ireland

Sunday 27 May 2018

Crossbred genomics on the way

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

THE Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) is to focus on genomic testing of females and crossbred animals in 2014, as well as issuing guidelines for the use of sexed semen.

Andrew Cromie of the ICBF assured farmers at the Teagasc National Dairy Conference that genomic testing for crossbred animals would be available next year. Plans are already under way to recruit crossbred animals for a training herd whose genetics would be used in the genomic testing process.

The ICBF is also going to drive the genomic testing of females, which has been slow to date.

A little more than 2,000 female calves were genotyped in Ireland last year, compared to 150,000 female calves in the US. Mr Cromie said the low uptake was mainly due to farmers not fully understanding the potential benefits of genomics for heifer selection.

"But we have shown there is a 3:1 return on investment for genotyping females," he said.

Meanwhile, genomic testing of calves has shown that 10-15pc of all dairy calves are being recorded with the wrong parentage, Mr Cromie told the conference delegates.

Incorrect sires account for the majority of parentage mistakes, but some dam errors have also been highlighted.

"Genuine mistakes in the paperwork, the wrong straw used, that's the type of thing we've found," said Mr Cromie. "We could eliminate all those errors if a future calf registration process incorporated tissue tags with a DNA sample that gives 100pc accuracy."

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Ian Hutchinson of Teagasc told the conference that guidelines for the use of sexed semen will be issued early in the new year.

Costing €31 per straw more than conventional semen, sexed semen offers best value for money when used on high fertility cows in good body condition at a certain period post-calving.

Irish Independent