Science application to improve dairy herd profitability

Related tags Dairy Milk Cattle Dairy farming

A new scientific test has been developed which aims to give dairy
producers foresight into the productivity potential of their herds.
The application claims to have no negative effects on fertility
rates and will eliminate the lengthy - and potentially costly -
wait to see if dairy cattle will produce adequate milk yields.
Tom Armitage reports.

Merial, the animal health company which produces the application, announced last week that it has acquired a licence from BoviQuest, a dairy genomics company, which will enable it to produce two gene marker tests, identifying milk yield and composition of dairy cattle.

The technology will offer dairy farmers a new way to identify an animal's genotype, which the manufacturers claim will "play an increasingly important role in producers' selection, marketing and management protocols"​.

The launch of such an application is a significant advancement for Merial, and indeed the dairy industry, in that it marks the first step towards the commercial availability of genomic testing.

BoviQuest commercial manager, Peter Gatley, said that "these two tests will identify the first two genetic markers for bovine milk production as well as being patented for use in the dairy industry. Furthermore, this is the first time bovine milk production genes have been licensed with a commercial company such as Merial, that has global marketing reach."

Merial claims that advancements in functional genomics will seek to redefine the livestock industry using technology previously available only to scientific research organisations.

The company's long-term ambition is the eventual release of further gene tests, including a set to determine the health and fertility of dairy herds.

The acquisition of global distribution rights for the two tests, INGENITY OptiYIELD and INGENITY ComponentMAKER, significantly expands Merial's INGENITY dairy sector portfolio.

Developed by New Zealand based BoviQuest, in conjunction with researchers in Europe, the DGAT-1 (OptiYIELD) test is said to be one of the most widely researched and broadly validated genomic tests in dairy science.

Stewart Bauck, head of Merial's livestock production business unit commented that the introduction of the application "greatly increases the usefulness of this test in helping farmers make informed decisions for breeding and selection​.

He also referred to the potential benefits of using the new technology in the dairy sector, claiming that "these tests empower dairy producers with more decision making tools that can open the door to greater profitability"​.

But not everyone shares Merial's enthusiasm for the proposed application. In recent years, a number of agricultural scientists have expressed concerns over the practice of intensive selection in dairy farming, claiming that it is leading to rising rates of inbreeding, as well as raising concerns for animal welfare.

In a recent paper on the welfare implications of animal breeding and breeding technologies in commercial agriculture, the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) claimed that "inappropriate use of some breeding technologies may create new problems, or exacerbate welfare problems that may have already arisen within conventional livestock breeding".

Related topics R&D

Related news