Biotechnology Focus

Biotechnology Focus February 2013

Biotechnology Focus is Canada's leading authority on Canada's life science news. From biopharma and healthcare to ag-bio and clean tech, our readership includes life science professionals, C-level executives and researchers.

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By: Shawn Lawrence Across Canada FEATURE Genomic selection in dairy cow breeding Most consumers wouldn't make the connection between dairy farming and science, or how advancements in genetic research might give Canadians an edge when it comes to dairy farming. Yet, Mother Nature and the cows that produce milk are indeed getting a helping hand from researchers in lab coats studying the complex genetic make-up of dairy cows and the milk they produce. Through the use of genomics, a branch of biotechnology that applies the techniques of genetics and molecular biology to the genetic mapping and DNA sequencing of genes, the dairy farming industry is benefiting from new applications that make the breeding process of dairy cows more efficient. Canadian dairy producers are among those well positioned to take advantage of genomics, using genomic testing as a tool to increase the accuracy of predicting an animal's genetic merit. In the case of Holstein Canada, it is about strengthening the country's Holstein breed. "Canada has already positioned itself as Canada, giving their Holstein animals a designated name with the cost to register an animal at just $9," says McNeil. According to McNeil, Holstein's comprise 94 per cent of the entire dairy cattle population in Canada. "They are the most profitable dairy breed there is. And don't let colour fool you— Holsteins are not only black and white, but they can also be red and white in pigment colour," he says. In addition, Holstein Canada also provides genetic advancement programs and services that enhance the profitability of Canadian "Canada has already posidairy by embracing innovation and technoltioned itself as the envy of the ogy. The goal of every world for its Holsteins, but our breeder is to produce farmers are thirsty to do better a stronger, better next in all they do and this includes generation of cow that using genomics to improve produces top-quality milk for Canadian conCanada's ability to produce sumers. quality cows." — Glen McNeil "In the past, one might say not embracing innovation was something the dairy the envy of the world for its Holsteins, but cattle industry was criticized for, but I think our farmers are thirsty to do better in all times have changed and today we are more they do and this includes using genomics to leading edge and more scientific in our apimprove Canada's ability to produce quality proach to producing a better next generacows," explains Glen McNeil, president of tion of cow." Holstein Canada. This, says McNeil, is where genomic Founded 128 years ago, Holstein Canada tools are making a difference for the dairy is the breed association responsible for industry. maintaining the herdbook, a list of ancestry "Genomics has helped speed up the for the Holstein breed across Canada. genetic advancement process, particularly "The herdbook is our core function, and in achieving faster genetic progress in your included in this function are services that herd. Before genomics, it would take five or comprise registration of when animals are six years before you finally got that calf that born and keeping track of dairy production. you really liked, based on the traits that you In all we have 11,000 members across Canwanted to improve from mother to daughada that register their animals with Holstein February 2013 BIOTECHNOLOGY FOCUS 21

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