New genotyping service for dairy industry

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A new service is now available to Australian dairy farmers for genotyping both cows and bulls.

Holstein Australia and the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) announced this week that a service would be available from 31 March 2011.

The service will be provided through Holstein Australia, while the ABV(g) will be calculated by ADHIS. The ABV(g) stands for Australian Breeding Value, with the (g), indicating the estimate contains both genotype data in addition to the traditional pedigree information. The ABV(g) is ‘tuned' for Australian conditions as the calculation draws upon performance data from cows milked in Australia.

Genomics fast tracks genetic gain by allowing selection decisions to be made on young animals.

Genomic testing can be done when an animal is any age, so breeding values can be estimated for young cows and bulls, long before performance data is available (or daughter performance data in the case of bulls). 

Matthew Shaffer, Holstein Australia chief executive officer, said he expected that initially, the service would be taken up mostly by breeders. For example genomic testing could be used to identify cows to be flushed for embryo transfer. Cow ABV(g)s would also allow farmers to compare animals between herds with more confidence.

 "At this time the cost of tests means it is not likely that many farmers will test whole herds to select replacement heifers. However it will be a useful and economic tool for breeders selling females and males," said Dr Shaffer.

 The testing process is very simple, using the sample kit supplied by Holstein Australia.

 "The farmer simply takes a hair sample from the animal and posts it to us in the sample kit," he said. 

At this stage it may take up to six weeks to receive the results, although Holstein Australia and ADHIS are working to shorten the time-frame. The tests cost between $90 and $275, depending on the depth of results requested.