U-IDAHO NEWS: Dairy Genomics Workshops Start Nov. 28 in Jerome, Help Producers Evaluate New Tests
JEROME, Idaho –– A nationwide series of dairy genomics workshops conducted by researchers from the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Washington State University and other land-grant universities will begin Monday, Nov. 28 in Jerome.
Led by UI Extension dairy specialist Joe Dalton and WSU Extension veterinarian Dale Moore, the workshop series is designed to help dairy producers benefit from a U.S. Department of Agriculture research project awarded to WSU and first funded in 2013.
That study, which included UI Extension dairy specialist Mireille Chahine, focused on identifying markers on bovine chromosomes associated with fertility.
The workshop agenda focuses on introducing dairy producers to genomics, its use to improve fertility in dairy cattle, case studies of how producers have used genomic testing and its economic value.
The Jerome workshop and other sessions — Nov. 30 in Prosser, Washington; Dec. 5 in Stephenville, Texas; Dec. 7 in Okeechobee, Florida; and Dec. 12 in Tulare, Calif. — will help dairy producers learn more about a powerful new herd management tool, Dalton said.
The Jerome session is planned at the Best Western Sawtooth Inn and Suites at 2653 S. Lincoln Ave. from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those planning to attend are asked to reply to Dalton at email@example.com or 208-454-7633. Information about other sessions are available online:
Improving dairy herds’ fertility increases dairies’ economic efficiency by decreasing the amount of time cows are not producing milk.
Dairy producers can develop different strategies to achieve economic goals, Dalton said, and genomics offers a way to put more power into decision making.
The workshops will help producers evaluate the value of genomic tests, which can cost $35 to $50 each. Many producers are either trying the technology or already committed to using the tests, he said. Some 1.6 million cows have been tested so far.
“There are certainly people who have a business strategy lined out, and they are using genomic testing,” said Dalton, who is based at UI’s Caldwell Research and Extension Center.
With a U.S. dairy herd numbering more than 9 million animals, many more dairy producers are still weighing the pros and cons of testing, Dalton added.
The tests' main value to producers, he said, is they allow the assessment of dairy heifers when they are much younger. Animals that carry the desired genes can be kept, and others may be sold.
In the past, producers managed their herds based on parentage. The offspring of a highly productive cow and a sire was likely to develop into a highly productive cow. The true test, however, had to wait until the cow began producing milk. That method had a reliability of about 35 percent.
Genomics testing, which essentially analyzes the cow’s genetic makeup, allows producers to assess an animal much younger and offers a reliability of about 70 percent.
Genetics aren’t everything, however. If an animal gets sick, its milk production potential may decline. If a dairy herd faces difficult environmental conditions or if management struggles to provide appropriate nutrition, housing and veterinary care, production will suffer, too, Dalton said.