Livestock genomics firm pleased to be on its own

Self-sustaining | Delta Genomics praises Western Development Fund

Funding cutbacks are usually a time of tears, not celebration, but Delta Genomics is celebrating the end of its government funding.

The livestock genomics company, which began at the University of Alberta and is now almost completely self-sustainable, celebrated its independence Nov. 13.

“This is a recognition of the (Western Economic Development) funding and its success, and we’re completely independent now and self-sustaining,” said Colin Coros, chief executive officer of Delta Genomics.

Staff have tested more than 100,000 livestock samples since 2011, when Delta Genomics was created from the U of A’s Livestock Gentec program.

This year, the company hopes to take 40,000 samples.

Most of the testing has been on samples sent from purebred beef and hogs and some dairy producers.

Coros said identifying key traits in animals will soon be just as common as requesting a semen test from a bull.

“I think it is becoming the norm in the seed stock industry. Within the next two years, I think 80 percent of the seed stock industry in Canada in the beef sector will be doing it. Now 100 percent of the dairy bulls in Canada have a genomic profile done on them,” said Coros.

“If we can identify the animals that are more feed efficient and progeny with higher average daily gain and better calving ease, then those are the ones they want to keep on the farm and the ones that don’t rank high, those are the one they will want to put in the marketplace.”

Most of the samples sent for genetic testing are from purebred herds, but Coros can see a growing interest from commercial breeders, who for example would want to know which animals will be polled or horned.

Coros expects commercial breeders to begin testing their replacement heifers for feed efficiency and other traits that are desirable in replacement heifers.

The company expects a five to 10 percent increase in testing in the next two to three years, he added.

The pork industry has also begun using genomics testing to search for the best breeds for nucleus herds and animals that will likely be the most disease resistant.

“We would be testing for animals that show higher likelihood of disease resistance,” he said.

“For some of the diseases, we are finding some genetic link to disease resistance. If we can decrease the impact five, 10, 25, 30 percent, it has a big impact on the industry.”

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