On a recent social media post, we asked our followers to send on any questions they had around genotyping. Below is a brief synopsis of the main questions asked and their corresponding answers.

  1. What is Genomics?

Genomics is breeding using DNA (Genotype) to help better predict how well an animal will perform in the future. DNA is passed from parents to offspring and is therefore central to breeding. The DNA profile of an animal is analysed (hair or tissue sample) and is compared to the DNA profiles of older proven animals, also known as the reference population and looks for similarities. Performance data, ancestry data and genomic data are combined on the animal itself generating a more accurate prediction of the animal’s genetic make-up (Economic Breeding Index).

The DNA is extracted from the hair follicles and analysed on a SNP Chip. DNA is transmitted in chunks and genomic testing then identifies which DNA chunks have been passed from the parents to its offspring. The genotype is studied to check parentage to confirm that the dam and sire recorded are correct. The genotype is then analysed on animal’s traits such as (milk production, carcass weight etc.)

Benefits Associated with Genomics

  • Parent verification: A genotyped animal can have its Sire & Dam confirmed
  • Higher reliability EBI/Eurostar figures: Genotyping increases reliability% figures even before the animal has produced any offspring
  • Traceability:Genotyping ensures that from birth there is full traceability of every meat sample
  1. Why can’t we use the BVD sample as a genotype sample?

We are currently working closely with the Department of Agriculture (DAFM) and the various tag suppliers to come up with the best solution around DNA and BVD sampling. There are currently technical and logistical challenges to incorporating both DNA and BVD into a single sample. A new type of national tag for tagging new-born calves was trialled very successfully this spring in our DNA Registration Pilot. This tag has the ability to take a separate sample for both DNA and BVD which we hope will be available in the near future.

3. What is the benefit for a dairy farmer?

The biggest benefit for dairy farmers of genotyping their dairy heifers, is to identify the females of the highest genetic merit to keep as replacements. Many dairy farmers have more heifer calves then they require and as a result will sell their excess replacements. By genotyping they can ensure they retain the heifers of the highest genetic merit through the incorporation of genomic information in their indexes. Genotyping will ensure parentage verification and will increase the reliability of the animal’s index.

  1. When is the best age to genotype a dairy heifer?

There is not exactly a best age to genotype a heifer. This will largely depend on your system. The important thing is to have the animals genotyped prior to selecting which heifers to keep to ensure that you can make the most informed selection decision.

  1. I’m not sure which of my stock bulls are the sires of my calves. Will genotyping sort this for me?

Many farmers may have 2 or more stock bulls of the same breed running with their females during the breeding season. As a result, when calving season rolls around it can be difficult to tell which bull is the sire of each calf. This is where genotyping and potentially DNA calf registration comes in. By having your bulls genotyped, you can then genotype your calves and get parentage verification on them which will very quickly confirm the correct sire. As well as this the calves will then go on to get a genomic evaluation which will see a higher reliability on their indexes at a younger age.

  1. How long will it take to get a result?

It is important when genotyping, to remember that a genomic result does not happen overnight. For dairy animals it takes approximately 3 weeks from once we receive the hair sample for them to get a genomic evaluation. For beef animals, it depends if the sample is received before next evaluation data cut-off date. For these cut off dates take a look at our Publication Schedule. Typically for beef animals it will take between 10 to 18 weeks from when we receive the sample to genomic evaluation.

7. Will genotyping be continued into the future?

Absolutely, given the success of genotyping to date, the obvious benefits and the increasing interest from farmers and industry, it is a no brainer. ICBF expects genotyping to only go from strength to strength. We will continue to invest our time and energy into growing the genotyping service and increasing adoption of the technology through programs like the DNA Registration pilot.

8. How is it done if you haven’t done it before?

If you haven’t genotyped before you can order hair cards by calling us on 023 8820452 or by logging into your ICBF account and go to “Services” and “Genomic Services”. You can place your order and within 1-2 working days the hair cards should arrive on farm. Instructions and return envelopes are included. You simply pull hair from the tail of the animal and try to get as much of the roots as possible.

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9. How reliable is it in predicting animal performance?

The increase in reliability between the official genomic proof and the non -genomic proof is between 20% to 30%. This increase depends on the amount of information in the genomic evaluation. It equates to an animal having the equivalent of about 10-15 daughters in milk production.

10. How come we don’t get the myostatin of the animal’s genotype?

Currently, testing for the myostatin gene is not part of the ICBF Genomic Service. However, if you contact Weatherbys directly, they will be able to do the test for you. They are able to use an existing genomic sample to test for the myostatin gene. To contact Weatherbys, please call 045 875521.

11. If a cow/heifer is missing EBI can you genotype them to find it out?

Genotyping is an excellent way to confirm the parentage of an animal. Provided that the bull in question is genotyped also, any samples from progeny off him will match up on the system. In the event that the sire is not genotyped and we are unable to find a match, the animal will still get an EBI or Eurostar rating based on the information extracted from the DNA sample.

  1. If you genotype a purebred non-registered heifer can you get her registered?

All issues around whether an animal is “Pedigree”, including certs and statuses, are dealt with by the pedigree breed societies directly. Each society will have their own set of rules. Please contact the relevant breed society for more information on the pedigree status of your animal.

  1. How do I know if an animal is genotyped or not?

The best way to check if an animal is genotyped or not is to search on the ICBF Animal Search. Just below the animal’s pedigree information you will notice a banner with information. There are a number of scenarios.

A red banner indicates that there is no valid genotype for the animal, this means that they have either not been genotyped or the sample that was provided was invalid and they will need to be resampled.

 A yellow banner indicates that an animal has been genotyped, but the genomic information is not yet included in the evaluation shown.

A green banner indicates that the animal is genotyped and that the genomic information is included in the evaluation shown.

  1. How much does it cost to genotype?

If you have any queries around genotyping, please contact the HerdPlus office on 023 8820452 or email [email protected].