New gene test for dairy cows launched in SA

26 August 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202020130

Agriculture
Food & Beverage

WITH food security increasingly under the microscope in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing financial pressure on the dairy sector, global animal health company Zoetis has launched Clarifide Plus to predict key cow and calf wellness traits in South Africa’s dairy cattle.

According to Technical Manager for the Ruminants Division at Zoetis South Africa, Dr Chantelle Erwee, genomic testing will assist dairy farmers in identifying specific traits in dairy cattle to predict which animals are more resilient to certain costly diseases as well as those with higher potential for important traits such as milk production, fertility and productive life.

The aim of the test is to help dairy farmers to build a healthier herd by testing heifers as early as possible in their lifetime. This will help to avoid unnecessary costs incurred by raising heifers that end up leaving the herd prematurely. At the same time, farmers will be able to improve breeding strategies and selection decisions.

Erwee said Clarifide Plus is the only genomic test that allows producers to rank animals with the Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP$) which is based on traits that affect health, performance and the lifetime profit of cows and calves. DWP$ describes more genetic variation in profitability allowing for faster progress towards greater profitability.

Zoetis teamed up with an agricultural banking and consulting institution to identify dairy operating measures that correlate with the financial health of contemporary dairy farms. From this, six key financial drivers of Net Farm Income were identified - net herd replacement costs, pregnancy rates, heifer survival, energy corrected milk, somatic cell count and death loss in cows.

Erwee said Clarifide Plus enhances the ability to improve the outcomes of these financial drivers by improving the ability to genetically select key performance and wellness-related traits.

“Cow and calf wellness genomic predictions were developed because of the commitment by Zoetis to the continuum of care for dairy cattle. Zoetis strives to improve dairy wellness and understand genetic factors impacting resistance to common diseases in dairy cattle.”

Profitability is enhanced when a dairy has the advantage of mature cows that are productive and healthy for multiple lactations. To reach their full potential and longevity, animals need to remain healthy from birth until calving and then cows must stay healthy and be reproductively sound, in addition to producing milk.

Erwee said using genomic testing also assists farmers and veterinarians involved in technologies such as embryo transfer to make smart decisions when it comes to selecting females as recipients or donors and indirectly guides them on sire selection.

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