The gains you can make in your herd’s genetic merit more than pay for the cost of genomic testing, especially in the absence of pedigree information, Tom Lawlor, director of research and development for Holstein Association, USA told audiences at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., yesterday.

“The key profit of a genomic test is an earlier and more accurate measure of genetic merit,” he says. Knowing where an animal ranks in your herd and within the breed allows you to make important management decisions on how much money to invest in an animal, their future profitability in your herd and which animals you should consider culling or changing breeding criteria, like using beef sires on lower genetic merit heifers.

To maximize effectiveness, consider a genomic testing plan. How you design that plan depends on how you want to apply genomic testing results. Is your objective to elite genetics? Or are you looking to identify those of lower genetic merit for culling or alternative breeding strategies?

Either way, begin testing animals early. Most testing of females is done prior to 15 month of age, notes Lawlor.

Routine genotyping of heifer calves and yearlings can be a cost-effective strategy for enhancing the genetic potential of replacement females. “And, early culling of inferior replacement animals will save you money in reduced reed cost,” he adds.

Meanwhile, everyone can benefit from genomic testing through semen purchases, Lawlor concludes. “Manage your risk better when selecting young sires by using a small quantity from a wide variety of bulls.”