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NMR wins tender for genomic tests in AHDB TB advantage project

10th April 2018

NMR has won the tender to carry out 10,000 genomic tests on female Holstein animals in UK dairy herds, as part of a project for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). The genomic results, and ancestral data on each animal, will be used to expand the national database of genetic evaluations looking in more detail at the TB Advantage trait that has been developed by AHDB Dairy, and in the development of a new state-of-the-art genomic prediction tool.

 TB Advantage helps dairy farmers identify bulls with higher resistance to TB following research undertaken by the University of Edinburgh, Roslin Institute and Scotland’s Rural College in 2016.

 NMR is selecting 60 to 70 herds to test in TB-affected areas. “Tissue samples will be taken from all the milking animals in the herd – milkers and dry cows – and these will be genomically tested through our GeneTracker service,” says NMR’s project co-ordinator Justin Frankfort.

 NMR will be providing the results and data to AHDB. This significant increase in genomic data will be fundamental in the development of the new tools that, in turn, will enable producers to identify animals that have a higher natural resistance to TB and make informed decisions about which cattle they choose to breed

 Many producers are already using the TB Advantage index provided for AI sires. This new data will help to increase its reliability. It will also provide genomic data on females so, in time, producers will be able to select cows and heifers with a TB Advantage.

 Producers participating in the project will also have access to the AHDB Dairy provided genomic results on the NMR Herd Companion web site,” adds Mr Frankfort. “So not only will it help in the longer-term development of the new breeding tools, it will also provide these producers with a herd genomic base from which they can make improved breeding decisions.”

 This herd genomic base is an ideal starting point for using GeneTracker as a management tool to predict – with much greater reliability than has been possible before – the likely value to the herd of young heifer calves.

 “Knowing the genomic value of each cow and heifer also enables more accurate breeding, with a clear picture of those from which to breed the next generation of milking cows, and those to breed to beef. It is also of value to herds with elite heifers who may opt to use embryo transfer.”

 As part of the project, NMR will also be identifying and genomically testing around 500 straws of dairy bulls. This additional genomic data will also be added to the national database and it will improve the reliability of the TB Advantage data, already available for many UK dairy sires.

 The project is in partnership with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) and focusses specifically on dairy cattle. Innovate UK has granted AHDB and CIEL £360,000 of funding, which will enable them to buy the genotyping services required to genotype these cattle.

 “This funding will allow a far greater number of cattle to be included in the database, ensuring greater accuracy when the improved genomic prediction tool is put into practice,” says Marco Winters, head of animal genetics for AHDB Dairy. “It has game-changing potential for the dairy industry.”

 NMR starts testing herds in May. Genomic results via GeneTracker are available within six weeks and by mid Aug the company estimates that over 10,000 extra sets of genomic data will be available on the industry database.