Jan. 4 2017 08:00 AM

Research has advanced and become a successful tool for dairy producers.

Genomic workshops recently held across the country gave dairy farmers, veterinarians, and students the latest information on genomics — past, present, and future. At the heart of the meetings . . . the great opportunity of boosting dairy cattle’s fertility through genomic selection. That hasn’t always been the case.

The national average for Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR), or the pregnancy rate of a bull’s daughters, stands 16 percent, according to baseline data from a variety of sources. However, some newly collected data suggests that number has climbed to 19 percent.

For years those focused on improving dairy cattle genetics have focused on production traits while health traits stood on the sidelines with no good way to measure traits like reproduction. As that took place, milk, fat, and protein continue to improve while traits DPR declined for decades. The question arises, “Can both fertility and high milk production be selected for using genomics?”

That was the focus of conversation at the Tulare, Calif., genomics talk. It was the last stop on the genomic workshop road trip that traveled to Idaho, Washington, Florida, and Texas to present research, answer questions, and provide information on genomic testing. The research project’s goal is to identify the novel genetic markers for fertility, currently in both Holstein heifers and cows.

Management and the health of the cows on a dairy operation also contribute to pregnancy rates. Ricardo Chebel explained another grant research project that incorporates common lactating cow diseases into fertility rates.

With fertility of dairy cattle becoming increasingly more important on dairy operations nationwide, these USDA grants presented at the workshops are vital towards the future of genomic selection. Genomic research has advanced quickly in recent years and is becoming a successful management tool for dairy producers.

For more information about the research project . . . more formally known as USDA NIFA AFRI Grant No. 2013-68004-20365 . . . as well as video presentations of previous workshops, go to: Washington State University’s Veterinary Medicine Extension.

Elise Regusci

Elise Regusci grew up on her family's dairy farm in Modesto, Calif. Regusci attends Cal Poly University, majoring in dairy science with a communications minor. On campus, she is the Los Lecheros Dairy Club Ag Council representative and a member of the Cal Poly judging team. Regusci is the current Brown Swiss Youth Ambassador and will be the 2017 Hoard's Dairyman summer editorial intern.