Genomic testing a ‘game changer’

Genomic testing a ‘game changer’
Holstein Friesian president Hennie Verwaayen with one of his ‘workers’, Fromdale Plan B VG88.

Recently elected president of Holstein Friesian New Zealand, Hennie Verwaayen, is pushing to ensure members of the association get access to more services.
“With the introduction of new services we hope to prevent that as soon as a year with a bad payout comes along, breeders don’t look at HFNZ in the first instance to cut costs,” Hennie says. “A service like genomic testing will enable members to get good value out of the association, regardless of the pay out.”
He doesn’t want to turn the association upside down, since there has been some really good work done. A lot of it behind the scenes by the breeders’ associations that the wider industry hardly knows about.
“We’re going to continue that work but we’ll probably try to get more into service providing for members. One service I’m hoping for is the genomic testing. We’ve set up a couple of trial runs this spring, so hopefully we’ll be able to offer our members and the wider farming community the opportunity to genomic test their animals later this year.”
This means breeders and commercial farmers are able, with good certainty, to get a picture of the individual animals’ breeding as a calf, resulting in breeding decisions being able to be made a lot earlier than currently is the case. There is a distinct difference, explains Hennie, between genetic and genomic testing.
Genetic testing is looking at single genes in the DNA of the animal, like parentage testing, whereas genomics enables the farmers to look at all the genes in the animal’s DNA and get a good handle on her ability to produce, grow and develop.
“That’s a game changer compared to parent averages that we’ve been used to here until now,” he says. Hennie says New Zealand is five to ten years behind the rest of the world in genomic testing.
In North America and Europe, a lot of farmers test their young stock, sell or mate the bottom end to beef, while the better ones are used for breeding. That has tremendous potential to improve breeding results. “We are talking to both European and North American genomic test providers.
It’s a niche market at the moment, but there is potential for not just traits but for environmental footprints and more feed effi cient animals which could be a benefit to the dairy industry further down the track.” Another hot topic for Holstein Friesian New Zealand is biosecurity.
“I believe A&P show organisers should be deterred from having a cattle section while the Government is trying to eradicate M. bovis. There is some serious public and farmers’ money being put into the eradication efforts and I think it’s irresponsible to be going to a show with cattle.”
Also on the agenda for the association is the Holstein Friesian New Zealand Elite Heifer raffle, the proceeds of which will enable one young breeder to attend the 2020 World Holstein Friesian Federation Holstein Conference in Switzerland. “We’ll have six of some of the best bred heifers in the country, for the winner of the raffle to pick from.
“The proceeds are going towards paying the breeder that’s providing the elite animal that gets picked, and the other part towards fundraising for the trip. It will cost about $5000 to send someone to Switzerland.”
Tickets will go on sale in December after which the Holstein Friesian New Zealand will be accepting applications for the trip from young, mature and enthusiastic breeders who want to widen their knowledge of the breed.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…

Related Posts