Genotyping shines spotlight on younger animals


Top dollar paid for genotyped heifer | The science of DNA analysis is changing the cattle breeding business

TORONTO — Big money was paid for youthful genomic-tested dairy heifers at the 60th annual Sale of Stars at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto Nov. 8.

“We are on the threshold of some great things,” said sale organizer Donald Johnston at the start of the sale.

“Every year we go forward, the higher type genomic calves are the more stylish and correct calves.”

Morsan Farms of Ponoka, Alta., and Butz-Hill Farm of Iowa paid the top price of the sale for a heifer born in May 2012.

Sully Numero Uno Maribel, a genotyped entry, fetched $250,000. David Dyment of Ontario and Sebastien Dion of Quebec were the consignors.

Coming in at $245,000 was a calf born in September named Jolicap Mogul Carmey. It came from Jolicap Holsteins of Quebec.

The next high seller for another high testing genomic calf came from Cormdale Genetics of Bethany, Ont., Oscar and Eric Dupasquier of Guelph, Ont., Impact Agri Division, LA of Burlington, Ont., and Al-Be-Ro Land and Cattle of Piacenza, Italy. The sale offered the first choice of a high genomic mating for $210,000.

Multiple semen and embryo contracts from Lookout Holsteins and Richard Pesce of Canton de Hatley, Que., sold for $200,000.

All the animals offered in this sale have been or will soon be genotyped to assess their future performance for milk production, fertility and other valued dairy traits.

The science of DNA analysis is changing the business, said Patrice Simard of Trans-America Genetics. Based at St-Hyacinthe, Que., this company started in 2008 just as genomic testing of dairy cattle was taking off. The company is now selling genetics in 32 countries.

The ability to see what an animal is capable of producing long before it has offspring has dramatically changed the business.

It has also elevated some dairy cattle because their genetics have shown they have superior traits over other more popular cattle.

Calves that have been barely weaned now command six figure prices.

“What they are buying are their ovaries, their acolytes,” said Simard.

“The value that is being transferred for those animals is growing.”

While the average commercial dairy producer may not be swayed by this new science, they can expect improvements in their herds because the bulls available through artificial insemination have now been tested. More milk, greater longevity and earlier maturity are among the benefits, said Simard.

“Genomics take away all the environmental effects,” he said.

The key now will be managing these elite cattle to bring out the best. Research is ongoing to see what kind of feed programs and mineral supplements they may require.

There is considerable focus on young heifers, but bulls are also achieving greater value, although at a younger age.

“The big name bulls will be the big names when they are 10 months old,” said Simard.