Genomic testing moved into high gear with the sequencing of the bovine genome and development a few years ago of a test that could genotype bovine DNA markers known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This opened up a new world of faster genetic testing with up to double the accuracy of traditional parent averages. It enabled users to better differentiate between siblings, sped up genetic improvement and improved the reliability of progeny testing results for economically relevant and even low-heritability traits, including health and fitness traits.
Initial tests focused on 50,000 SNPs and at roughly $250 per test, were used primarily for genomic testing young sires by bovine genetics organizations or for testing elite females.
Within the last year, a test has been developed that examines about 3,000 SNPs, and the cost dropped to less than $50 per test. This 3K test, as it is known, is available through a variety of vendors, including bovine genetics organizations, breed associations and pharmaceutical companies, as well as private labs. Additional genomic tests are in development, but still in the testing stage.
Nature PLUS nurture
Calves that don’t get an adequate supply of IgG and other factors in colostrum at birth often go on to be less-profitable members of the herd. This is also dependent on nutrient intake prior to weaning -- the higher the total nutrient intake, both energy and protein, the greater the milk-producing ability, says Kent Weigel, University of Wisconsin dairy genetics professor and chair of the Department of Dairy Science . “We always think about nature vs. nurture, but in this case what we really need to do is talk about nature plus nurture. By that, I mean that we should combine the results of genomic testing with the health history of the calf when making replacement decisions,” he says. “This is something we’ll be working on over the summer.”