By Alicia Rode
Recent genetic research allows dairy producer Kevin Luedtke to make decisions to improve the productivity of his dairy herd and the conformation of his dairy cattle.
Genomic testing has been commercially available since 2009 and is done by collecting a sample of hair follicles or a blood sample from an animal.
Luedtke, from northern Indiana, learned about genomics when going to dairy cattle semen and embryo sales. He then began genomic testing on his young calves in January, 2012. The genomic report helps Luedtke decide which calves to keep and which sires to breed to his heifers.
"The youngest calves have the best genetics," Luedtke said. "I am using information from genomic testing to improve my dairy herd starting with the young calves."
Genomic testing results are used as a herd management tool by allowing producers to know which animals are likely to be more profitable and healthier by looking at an animal's genetics.
"Genomic testing is the newest tool dairy farmers have," said Mike Schutz, a professor of Animal Sciences at Purdue University. "This is the first time dairy producers can look at the DNA that an animal has, which helps determine the animal's genetic value in the dairy herd."
Genomic testing reports give dairy producers predictions of an animal's genetic ability for traits, such as fertility, milk yield, and productive life, at a young age. Using genomic reports can save producers money in the long run.
"Genomic testing gives information on characteristics that have not been able to be measured before," Schutz said.
Semen companies are seeing a higher demand for young bulls with good genomic numbers than for proven bulls, which are at least five years old.
Luedtke is using genomic testing reports to do corrective breeding for improved conformation of his cattle as well as improving the productivity of his dairy herd. He has goals of selling embryos and someday he hopes to sell a bull to a semen company.
"Using genomic testing in my breeding program is helping me make decisions on improving the herd genetics as well as accomplishing the goals I have for our dairy herd," Luedtke said.
Rode is a senior in Purdue University Ag Communications