Ohio State Workshop to Offer Insight on Dairy Reproduction and Genomics

Genomic testing can help producers identify the heifers that will offer the best return on investment. (Photo: Thinkstock)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Dairy producers who want to take more control over the profit potential of their future herds may want to consider genomic testing, which can help identify which heifers to raise that are genetically superior and will offer producers the best return on investment, said an Ohio State University Extension veterinarian.

Genomic testing can allow dairy producers to identify specific DNA markers for selection of reproduction, production and health traits in dairy cattle, said Gustavo M. Schuenemann, associate professor, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Ohio State, and OSU Extension veterinarian.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Using such DNA markers allows for selection of superior bulls and replacement heifers before the traditional proof with progeny testing becomes available, accelerating the genetic gain and shortening the generation interval,” he said. “This can help producers focus their management and resources on those superior replacement heifers.

“Development and implementation of genetic selection of dairy cattle has been the major method to improve productivity per animal. However, selection has been focused on production traits and only more recently on reproduction and health traits.”

Dairy producers, managers, veterinarians and allied industry personnel can learn more about the latest advances in genomics technology for dairy herds including selection of production, health, and reproduction traits, during a workshop May 7.

The Dairy Reproduction and Genomics Workshop is from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Der Dutchman Restaurant, 445 South Jefferson Ave., in Plain City. The workshop is free and lunch will be provided.

In addition to Schuenemann, speakers for the workshop will include: José Santos, professor of animal sciences, and Klibs Galvão, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, both at the University of Florida; Jeff Ziegler, genomic program manager at Select Sires Inc., a Plain City-based livestock reproductive management services company; and Todd Birkle of Zoetis, a New Jersey-based animal health company.

The workshop will include the following topics:

·      Introduction to genomics.

·      Herd management and genomics. 

·      Update on genomics and fertility.

·      Economics of genomic technology.

·      Case study: Application of genomic selection in dairy herds.

According to the National Dairy Herd Information Association, genomic testing in dairy production was introduced in 2010 as a tool for testing or screening males that would be entering artificial insemination as well as some high-end females for merchandising or bull mothers.

Genomic testing is now being used by more and more dairy operations for merchandising and management of genetic levels of herd replacements, the Wisconsin-based trade association said.

The workshop will also focus on preventing disease at the herd level, which requires ongoing effort with effective coordination of the whole system — animals, feed, facility, environment and personnel, organizers said.

It will provide an opportunity to share and discuss relevant information about reproduction- and nutrition-related diseases, organizers said.

The workshop is funded by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In an effort to improve dairy cow fertility, Pablo J. Pinedo of Texas A&M University is leading a team of scientists in carrying out a five-year grant project looking at the heritability of reproduction traits. 

Team members for this project include: Schuenemann; Pinedo and Christopher Seabury of Texas A&M; Santos, Galvão, William W. Thatcher and Ricardo C. Chebel of the University of Florida; Rodrigo C. Bicalho and Robert O. Gilbert of Cornell University; Guilherme J.M. Rosa, University of Wisconsin; Sandra Rodriguez-Zas, University of Illinois; and John Fetrow, University of Minnesota. 

For more information or to register for the workshop, contact Schuenemann at 614-292-6924 or schuenemann.5@osu.edu, or contact Jeff Workman at 614-292-9453 or workman.45@osu.edu.

Tracy Turner
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Gustavo M. Schuenemann