Genomics testing now available for commercial herds

Knowing more about your cattle’s DNA can help you make better decisions, says non-profit developer of test

Genomics testing is now practical for crossbred herds, says Delta Genomics.
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Delta Genomics has released a new genomics tool that will help commercial cattle producers determine breed composition and fertility of their cattle.

EnVigour HX, which was released in February, allows producers of crossbred cattle to tap into the power of genomics, said Michelle Miller, chief executive officer of the not-for-profit genomics service division of Livestock Gentec.

Michelle Miller. photo: File

“What we want to do is make it possible for commercial cattle guys to start asking more complex questions,” Miller said at Livestock Gentec’s recent annual conference. “Like which heifers should I keep, or which are my best heifers?”

EnVigour HX is a package of three services; parentage, breed composition, and a measure of heterosis (hybrid vigour). The three services cost $45. Producers provide semen, hair, or blood so Delta Genomics can analyze the animal’s DNA.

Knowing the parentage of a bull can be used to gauge both its ability to sire calves and sire ones with good performance.

“It costs about $1,800 to maintain a herd bull,” said Miller. “If that bull is going to eat your feed and cost you money, he better be putting $1,800 of calves back on the ground. We can help you identify those bulls.”

Knowing the breed mixtures of the cows they are breeding to their bull helps producers maintain the crossbred attributes they’ve developed in their herd, she said. EnVigour HX can identify Angus, Charolais, Galloway, Gelbvieh, Here­ford, Limousin, Maine-Anjou, Salers, Shorthorn, and Simmental.

The hybrid vigour score can be used to forecast feed efficiency and weaned weights, but the real value is on the fertility side.

“We can increase your revenue because you have more fertility and a higher proportion of your cows are getting pregnant,” said Miller. “So you have more calves to sell at the end of the day.”

It also means fewer young cows are put on the truck because they’re open, she said.

“We don’t have to replace them as often, and we’re reducing our replacement costs there,” she said.

When producers get their results certificate, they will get animal information, breed composition, and a chart.

“If we can verify the calf and the sire, we don’t need a sample from the dam. We can estimate her without ever sending a sample in. You can get the bull from the calves.”

The process also identifies the average hybrid vigour score for the herd, so people can benchmark the individual against the average for the herd.

Olds College has partnered with Delta Genomics to offer EnVigour HX as well, said Shannon Argent, the college’s manager of the Technology Access Centre for Livestock and Poultry

“We’re going to be able to offer sampling services as well as consultations with producers who are looking to do that kind of research in their own herds,” she said.

Olds College is investing in research and development, in order to help producers collect more data and benchmark towards increasing efficiency, said Argent. The college can also assess residual feed intake for purebred cattle and will be developing an in vitro fertilization lab to test feed additives for producers. That service will be available to sheep and beef producers.

Delta Genomics accepts semen straws if thawed. Whole blood in the purple-top tubes is also acceptable. It also offers various tag options and takes hair from the tail switch provided it is in a bundle, in a paper envelope, or on a card. However, the hair must be from the follicle and strands — snips from a cow’s clipping will not work. There are YouTube videos showing how to take a proper sample, said Miller.

Delta Genomics will be hosting six information sessions in November in Edmonton (Nov. 7), Grande Prairie (Nov. 15), Olds (Nov. 16), Vermilion (Nov. 27), Rocky Mountain House (Nov. 28), and Claresholm (Nov. 29). For more information or to register, contact Delta Genomics at 780-492-2538 or at [email protected].com.

About the author


Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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