While Larson believes the financial investment in genomics will more than pay for itself in their herd, it is important to act on the information. “It doesn’t make sense to pay for information and then not use it,” he says. “You have to make sure you apply it to a long-term herd strategy to maximize the value of the investment.”
Maximizing the value of Jersey genes
At Yosemite Jerseys near Hilmar, Calif., genomic testing is now just as procedural as vaccinating and ear-tagging. And utilizing the information it provides has become a regular part of the herd’s management routine, too.
Brett Barlass Manager Brett Barlass says he started using genomics in 2010, testing every heifer calf at one day of age. “Our original goal was to use genomic information primarily to determine which heifers to keep as replacements on the dairy, and which ones to sell,” says Barlass.
That strategy changed when the family that owns the herd decided to build a second dairy in Texas. Currently, all of the California herd’s heifers are retained to expand the Texas herd, but Barlass says the genomic results still provide value. Because they use a lotof young sires, “we’re getting a jump on genetic information well in advance of bull proofs,” he says.
They also are able to identify genetically superior animals in the 100-percent registered herd, which are sold for breeding or selected for advanced reproductive work. The identification of Jersey fertility haplotype 1 (JH1)-carrier females also allows Barlass to avoid breeding them to JH1-carrier bulls, since that particular halotype can negatively affect fertility. And, correction of parentage errors helps him prevent inbreeding.
Barlass says the genomic sampling process has been greatly improved with their recent adoption of a new Allflex nextGen™ Tissue Sampling Unit. In three simple steps, a tissue sample is punched from the ear and collected in a vial with preservative; an electronic identification tag is installed; and a matching visual tag is placed in the ear. “It’s a very slick process and reduces the chance of identification errors on the samples,” says Barlass.
Batches of 96 samples are shipped to GeneSeek, a laboratory in Lincoln, Neb., that extracts the DNA information from each sample and applies it to the GeneSeek GGP 8K chip. GeneSeek enters the results into the USDA Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) database. From there, the American Jersey Cattle Association generates reports and returns the results to the owners within four to six weeks of initial sample submission.