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Big data helps develop new breeding traits

Published October 31st 2016
National Milk Records has shared 9 billion rows of data gathered via routine milk recording with AHDB Dairy, which heralds the starting point for developing exciting new breeding traits.

"Identifying and breeding cows that can produce the same amount of milk but from less feed is vitally important to maintain the sustainability of the GB dairy industry," says NMR managing director Andy Warne, who made the historic handover.
From left to right: Andy Warne (NMR), Marco Winters (AHDB Dairy) and Mike Coffey (SRUC) during the exchange of a hard drive containing the data.
Mr Warne explains how milk samples will help achieve this. "Each milk sample we test generates 1,060 data points that can tell us more about the health of the cow. We've used the data already as part of our Energy Balance service and it's this information that will help us breed more efficient cows in the future."

The new feed efficiency traits could be available as soon as next year and will be another tool to help producers improve their profitability. "We anticipate that we'll be able to provide genetic information for all the Holstein bulls used across the industry because of the volume of data," says Marco Winters from AHDB Dairy.

Working with the EGENES department at SRUC, NMR and AHDB aim to develop new breeding traits linked to feed efficiency. Once available, the new traits will also be combined with genomic testing.