Breeding and Genetics Symposium I: How genomic selection has changed livestock breeding
Dairy cattle, and Holsteins in particular, were the first major agricultural industry to fully embrace genomic selection (GS). Few of us had predicted that, by May 2019, the number of genotyped animals would exceed 3 million. Farmers are changing the frequency of individual alleles and making use of genomic information to select better bulls; identify elite embryo donors; determine if a cow should be bred with conventional, sexed or beef semen; become an embryo recipient or be culled. Our industry has traditionally been an open system, where top genetics are sourced from the general population and phenotypes are provided on a voluntary basis. Contractual agreements have allowed this system to continue and have been extended to access of data, differential pricing, international collaboration and more. Phenotypes no longer come from well designed, highly organized progeny testing programs but rather from paid contributors who provide data that are quality certified and representative of the population. Over time, we’ve improved our genome map, SNP chips, reference populations, statistical models, computing ability, data pipeline, and most importantly our knowledge of genetics. Combining different types of data from multiple sources continues to be a challenge. Interdisciplinary approach and collaboration with other scientists are now the norm. GS has caused a paradigm shift within the dairy industry. But, after 10 years, we are in a better position to more quickly integrate new scientific knowledge. Making our industry and the production of dairy products more efficient and sustainable.