Milking It: Genomics is taking the guesswork out of dairy production

October 09, 2014 – Genome British Columbia

Vancouver, BC – A new research program, funded in part by Genome British Columbia, aims to help BC’s dairy farmers by taking the guesswork out of determining which young heifers will develop to be the best milk producers. Through a simple hair sample, a genomic-based test will demonstrate the genetic markers of desirable traits like volume, fat content and protein. This data will allow farmers to make informed breeding and selection management decisions that will result in a more productive herd and improved dairy profitability.

This research is very important to BC’s 545 dairy farmers with approximately 72,000 dairy cows that produce over 650 million litres of milk per year. And British Columbians like their milk – our per capita consumption is over 77 litres per year. The dairy industry provides employment for over 11,000 people and contributes an estimated $1 billion per year to the provincial and federal economies.

Other objectives of the research project are to demonstrate the increased reliability of genetic ranking of the young heifer stock through use of genomics; to perform an economic analysis of the financial benefit to dairy farm operators who use genomics; and to increase the acceptance of genomic technology by dairy producers through their direct involvement with the research project.

“If we can accurately rank the animals according to production then we can derive significant benefit from these genomic tools,” says Dr. Ronaldo Cerri, assistant professor in animal reproduction at the University of British Columbia.

“The collaboration between Dr. Cerri and the farmers participating in this project means that the power of genomics will be demonstrated and become an applicable science for all farms to then utilize,” says Dr. Martin Darrow, director of embryo transfer services and genomic research at Greenbelt Veterinary Services. “We are going to work very hard to make sure that this information is made accessible to dairy farmers across BC.”

“Genome BC is pleased to enable this research project that aims to provide BC milk producers with a simple, validated and commercially available genomic tool which will improve the overall genetic merit of their cattle,” says Dr. Alan Winter, President and CEO of Genome BC. “By working hand in hand with the dairy farmers and veterinarians, genomics is leading the way to providing cost-effective solutions.”

The project, valued at over $70,000, was funded through Genome BC’s User Partnership Program (UPP). UPP is designed to form partnerships with users to find research solutions that address the needs of the key sectors of the BC economy and directly connect receptors in BC economic sectors to new products, services and practices that arise from genomics-related research. The UPP represents an initial investment of $9M for new research projects, with $3M from Genome BC. The remaining funds are to be provided by user partners and other co-funders.

About Genome British Columbia
Genome British Columbia is a catalyst for the life sciences cluster on Canada’s West Coast, and manages a cumulative portfolio of over $660M in 211 research projects and science and technology platforms. Working with governments, academia and industry across sectors such as forestry, fisheries, agriculture, environment, bioenergy, mining and human health, the goal of the organization is to generate social and economic benefits for British Columbia and Canada. Genome BC is supported by the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada and more than 300 international public and private co-funding partners.

Jennifer Boon
Communications Specialist, Genome BC
Phone: 778-327-8374