A leading genomics scientist says farmers are becoming more aware of genomics in their breeding operations.
In an extensive presentation to a forum focused on sustainable beef production put on by Angus herd collective Team Te Mania, Jo Newton spoke about how dairy genetic practices could help many other areas of the livestock sector.
Dr Newton said over 90 per cent of dairy bulls born in the last five years, and registered for artificial insemination (AI), went through genomic testing, and there had been a good uptake of genomic tools from dairy farmers, with three in four farmers using breeding values in semen-purchasing decisions
She said there had been a greater focus on genomics in females as well.
"If we look at our commercial females, around 4pc of those animals are being genomic tested [and] that rate has actually doubled in the last two years," she said.
"It's currently a big dairy industry priority to make genomic testing of females mainstream."
The practice of AI is also looking to be increasing, with 1.75 million straws of dairy semen being sold in the 2020-21 financial year, while there is more awareness of Australia's national dairy indices which measures dairy traits like production, health, fertility and longevity.
During her presentation, Dr Newton outlined that while beef and dairy cow breeding may seem like separate industries, the principles remained the same.
She said there were similar ideologies when talking about modern breeding goals for both beef and dairy industries.
"It's an animal that has a long and productive life," she said.
"We want [cows] to be an efficient converter, to feed more profit, to always get in calf, to never get sick, to have good confirmation, to have high standards of animal welfare, to have low greenhouse gas emissions, and to be ethically sound."
Inbreeding is also increasing, and Dr Newton said farmers needed a better understanding of its implications.
"We can see that the rate of inbreeding has increased quite a lot since the introduction of genomic selection," she said.
She said farmers who were equipped with tools to be able to make informed breeding decisions to control inbreeding was a future key research area.
She was also asked how large cows could possibly grow and responded by saying not "all cows are created equal" and called on farmers to use data effectively.
"If we have two 600-kilogram cows... we could expect them to eat the same amount of feed, but the truth is, they won't," she said.
"So we have the opportunity there to make an informed choice about which animal is eating less."
She said there were opportunities for investment in the uptake in tools in the industry and improvement in occupational approaches and methodology.
Specifically to the dairy industry, Dr Newton said there were also aims to have 300,000 dairy females to get a genomic test by 2025.
"In terms of our DairyBio research program that is happening in the next five years... as the cost of genomic testing is decreasing and our reference [cow] populations are growing, we've certainly got more opportunities to continue to do research to better improve genomic reliabilities and the computational approaches we use in genomic prediction," she said.
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