1012 NowTime

10/12/2013 7:00 AM

To Learn About <\n>Benefits of Genomics

Genetic technologies offer new opportunities to develop precise management plans that will help a farmer capitalize on the genetic merit of each animal in his or her herd.

Extension dairy educator Ximena Del Campo explains that being able to make marketing decisions based on the animal’s genetic potential on traits such as milk production or carcass traits in beef cattle, is possible through genomics.

The evaluation of dairy genetics developed by USDA and breed associations has been the foundation of this approach. To this, you add dairy herd improvement, or DHI, records and powerful algorithms to generate “predicted transmitting abilities,” or PTAs, which help rank animals on various traits.

The number of progeny a specific animal has had helps increase its reliability for PTAs. Because of this, most of the genetic progress in dairy herds has been driven by bull selection.

Because one bull can be used as the sire of thousands of offspring, the industry has been able to learn a lot about the sires’ ability to transmit genes to their offspring.

The commercial dairy cow, however, will have few offspring and production records throughout her life. But now, with genomics, there is an opportunity to progress at a faster rate within the female population.

After years of research, scientists sequenced the bovine genome, which has approximately 3 billion base pairs, and identified which markers directly affect her physical appearance and production performance, genes of greatest importance to the dairy producer.

The overall genetic influence on the phenotype is the sum of the effects of different genes dispersed throughout the animal’s DNA. For many of the traits, there are hundreds of genes that are involved. In addition, environment has a major role to play.

Genotyping helps identify which genes an animal has inherited, giving an indication of what might be transmitted to its offspring. The results are reported as “genomic predicted transmitting abilities,” or GPTAs, and are presented in the same format as traditional genetic evaluations.

Identifying animals with superior traits for longevity, health and performance are key to farm profitability and continued growth.

One important index offered is Net Merit, or NM$, which predicts the expected lifetime profit contribution of an individual animal compared with the breed base. It includes economically relevant traits with a weighting of 48 percent for health and fitness, 35 percent for production and 17 percent for conformation.

Genomically testing a group of heifers will help identify not only elite animals but also animals with lower genetic potential.

Investing in genetically superior animals and selecting for relevant traits will help manage feed costs and at the same time ensure genetic progress. This technology provides producers with the flexibility of testing early in an animal’s life and will give them more confidence in their decision making.

It is important to apply a long-term herd strategy and maximize the value of the investment. Paying for the information and not using it is an inefficient strategy.

As with any investment in new technology, there are various questions that have to be answered beforehand. Implementing technologies like genomics may affect your current business model and marketing opportunities, which is the reason why it’s important to think long-term.

Not only do you have to decide what animals in the herd should be tested but you should also consider goals, herd inventory, selection decisions and feed costs, at the same time taking into consideration the price fluctuation of milk and meat.

It is imperative to understaand the goals of your herd now and in the future, and to know your return on investment.

Technology will continue to move the dairy industry and will play a large role in the progression and succession of a dairy.

To keep up with all this new technology, the Penn State Extension Dairy Team has developed a dairy reproduction certification class that will cover topics in reproductive efficiency.

Also this fall, there will be two Precision Dairy Technology Forums to inform farm managers on technologies, strategies to implement these technologies and factors to consider when taking the leap into these technologies.

The first forum will be Oct. 18 in Chambersburg and will focus on robotic milking and automatic calf feeding. The second will be Oct. 31 in Lancaster and will focus on genomics and activity monitors. Additional information can be found at http://extension.psu.edu/animals/dairy/events.

To Review Weed Management <\n>for No-till Small Grains

As no-till wheat and other seedings commence, it is valuable to review weed control options. Extension agronomist Bill Curran tells us that for no-till establishment of winter cereals, glyphosate or Gramoxone can be used to control vegetation prior to small grain emergence.

The Banvel, Clarity and other dicamba labels state that application may be made before, during or after planting of small grains.

Banvel may be applied at 2 fluid ounces per acre or Clarity at up to 4 fluid ounces per acre with any glyphosate formulation labeled for use as a pre-plant application to small grains with no waiting period prior to planting.

East of the Mississippi River, for barley, oat, wheat and other grass seedings, the interval between application and planting is 15 days per 8 fluid ounces per acre applied.

Quote of the Week

“There are two ways to conquer and enslave a country. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”

— John Adams

Leon Ressler is district director of Penn State Cooperative Extension for Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

Does milk have a lot of untapped potential in today’s competitive beverage market?

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