Next month: Profiles of herds and how they are applying genomic information.
Genomic sampling made easy
Collecting samples for genomic testing can become a routine on-farm procedure. University of Wisconsin professor Pat Hoffman and Zoetis technical services veterinarian Dick Wallace both suggest sampling and testing heifer calves as early as possible, so that timely management decisions can be made based on the results.
Genomic tests require blood, hair follicle or tissue samples from individual animals. (Twins require hair follicle or tissue samples). Samples are submitted to one of the current providers of genomic testing, which include the Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss associations, and Zoetis Animal Genetics. Each submission should include the animal’s identification number, birth date, and a bar code. Identifying the animal’s sire and dam on the submission form is not required, but improves accuracy of the results.
Combining sampling with other procedures that already are performed in the first few days of calves’ lives can make the process more efficient. Following are suggestions for streamlining the sample collection process:
• Collect blood samples when screening for IgG/total protein levels. After drawing blood for IgG screening, apply a spot for every animal to individual FTA® cards. The cards can be stored at room temperature until the dairy has accumulated a batch that then can be submitted for testing.
• Collect hair follicle samples when processing newborns. When feeding colostrum, tagging, dipping navels or administering vaccines, pull a pencil-width hair sample from the ear or tail switch. Be sure to collect the hair bulbs from beneath the skin. Place in samplecollection pouches from the test provider, seal and label for each animal. These samples, too, can be stored at room temperature for batch processing.
• Combine ear-tagging with sample collection. Zoetis will soon be introducing a new skin-punch tool that collects a tissue sample while administering RFID tags. The tiny notch of skin punched out to install the tag is automatically gathered in a vial with preservative that can then be sealed, identified for each animal, and processed in batches.