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Breeding dairy cattle for the future: Where is the Canadian industry headed?

S. Larmer




Breeding dairy cattle for the future: Where is the Canadian industry headed?
S. Larmer*. Semex Alliance Arthur, ON, Canada.

Recent uptake of both genomic technology, improved herd fertility, and advanced reproductive technologies including IVF and sexed semen have drastically shifted the focus of dairy cattle breeders globally. This session will explore how these technologies can be used in tandem both in Canadian dairy herds and globally to maximize the potential productivity and efficiency of dairy cattle on commercial dairy farms. Specifically, we will explore the future of breeding cattle with a focus on the productivity of those animals, rather than a focus specifically on the additive genetic potential of the next generation. This includes the estimation and use of higher order genetic terms and better methods of genomic inbreeding to maximize expected production in the next generation. In the Canadian industry, as is seen globally, we see a clear shift away from the traditional model of data sharing between producer and the public evaluation provider, often stemming from a perception that milk recording systems do not provide enough proportional value to the farm. This is especially driven by the rapid growth in robotic milking systems, where production and other performance metrics are available to the farm on a 24x7 basis. This provides an exceptional challenge for the overall industry to maintain and enhance genetic and genomic predictions for economically important traits. The future will need to adapt to this growing reality, including a shift towards accessing, standardizing and utilizing data from these robotic systems, as well as designing new traits where reference populations can be established to effectively and accurately measure data on a smaller, representative group of animals (“closer to biology” traits). Finally, we will look at the future of indexes that drive profitability on farm, and the impact that creating the right index for a specific production system can have for the productivity and profitability of a dairy producer, using examples from Canada and globally.