Genomic gains and farming management efficiencies in livestock DNA testing
Livestock genomics or genetic testing has significantly evolved over the past decade, as a result of advances in scientific research into herd genomics, DNA testing capabilities and industry demand for more reliable techniques.
Traditionally, producers relied on blood card and hair pulling techniques to gather DNA from their herd to find out information on parentage, hereditary traits, and genetic defects. However, calls for efficiencies and product development have enabled new technologies such as Allflex’s Tissue Sampling Units (TSU’s) to emerge.
New scientific discoveries of DNA markers linked to certain traits in livestock, such as resistance to common diseases, has also driven a demand for more advanced testing methods to help producers improve their economics through selective breeding for milk quality and productivity, meat quality, fleece quality and longevity.
Allflex Australia, Area Sales Manager, Wal White, who has had significant experience on both sheep and cattle farms across regional New South Wales said, “Having worked with blood card and tail hair methods before and seeing first-hand the experiences of producers when out on farm; hair pulling and blood cards can be problematic. Both methods can be labour intensive, have a high contamination risk; can result in insufficient sample size and sample failure; and be at risk of misidentification when samples are mistakenly sent to the lab without the correct IDs.”
Allflex TSU’s offer a quick, reliable and accurate genetic testing method that manages these common testing challenges.
“More and more producers and stud owners are moving to TSU’s to make things quick, simple and reliable,” said Wal.
TSU’s are gaining market share compared with traditional approaches, with a take-up rate in sheep markets of 90%, and 50% in cattle markets according to one of the largest DNA testing services.
Allflex’s TSU system enables farmers to easily collect small, high-quality tissue samples from an animal’s ear that are instantly transferred into a self-contained, pre-labelled vial with unique 2D barcodes, which mean that they can be seamlessly linked to an electronic ID ear tag.
The system delivers this tissue in a format that makes it easier for laboratories to test and automate some of their laboratory procedures reducing cost and processing times.
Another added benefit is that the samples contain a large quantity of high-quality (wet) DNA material as a result of the unique liquid buffer that the tissue sample is deposited into. The buffer solution itself becomes the sample used for DNA testing and can be stored and re-sampled for additional testing at a later stage.
“The TSU system, streamlines the sampling and testing process, and automates the processing in labs, meaning faster results, and a reduced need for resampling.”
Another benefit is that producers and studs don’t need to wait up to 6-months for hair follicles to mature (for a quality sample). TSU’s are clean, fast and can be done within minutes after the animal is born.
“This gives producers a time advantage by being able to make informed breeding and farm management decisions straight after birth not 6-months down the track.”
Tissue sampling and DNA testing will continue to be a significant growth area in the livestock and food industries. Changing global needs such as providing quality animal protein for a growing population; improving sustainability and welfare in animal agriculture; and meeting a growing consumer and governmental demand for traceable, ethical and eco-friendly products will continue to drive the search for new identifiable genetic traits in livestock and linking back to those individual unique identifiers.
For further information on the TSU system please phone your local AIRR Member or Allflex on 1300 138 247.