Stock Judging Competition Highlights Gains to using Genomics for Breeding Decisions

A nationwide stock judging competition which tasked farmers with ranking six dairy heifers on their potential profitability has highlighted how traditional means of assessing dairy youngstock cannot compete with the accuracy gained from genomic testing.

The ‘You be the Judge’ competition run by Zoetis and NMR in December and January asked farmers to rank six dairy heifers based on visual observations from a photo, their parent average and ancestry data. The heifers had all been genomically tested and competition entries were compared with their genomic ranking.

Out of the 450 entries no one was able to rank all six correctly according to their genomic index, with only 14 managing to rank four out of six animals correctly.

This highlights the pitfalls of trying to predict a heifer’s potential accurately from a visual assessment and using parent averages when compared to a genomic test.

Zoetis Ruminant Veterinary Consultant Joshua Batterham said: “Using genomics gives farmers a clearer idea of the potential of a heifer from as early as six weeks of life, which is something that cannot be done as accurately using visual observations and parent averages alone, as this competition has shown.

“By accurately predicting the genetic potential of each animal in a herd, farmers can manage how they treat individuals, such as deciding which animals to breed replacements from, which to put to beef, as well as those they may consider selling. It also helps with bull choices by correcting parentage and aiding corrective mating.”

NMR’s Genomics Manager Richard Miller who works in partnership with Zoetis to offer the genomic testing service CLARIFIDE® Plus to farmers, and also manages NMR’s in-house GeneEze genomic service, added: “Traditional means of assessing dairy youngstock cannot compete with accuracy gained from genomic test results.

“There is a significant difference in the reliability of the two predictions, with the parent average prediction offering around 30% reliability for heifers, compared with up to 70% reliability from a genomic test.

“Genomic testing can be used to increase the odds of making the best selections and improve the rate of progress in dairy herds,” he said.

Two winners were selected to receive prizes totalling more than £1,000. The victors were Robin Orr from Ballymena who won 25 CLARIFIDE Plus tests and Peter Lawley from Stoke on Trent who won 25 GeneEze genomic tests from NMR.

CLARIFIDE Plus incorporates 14 health and wellness traits in addition to the production and fertility traits delivered by standard genomic testing. It also includes the multi-trait selection index called Dairy Wellness Profit (DWP) which is based not only on lifetime productivity but also health and fertility, giving an overall view as to how profitable each heifer could be. Farmers can view a ranking of the top 100 UK Holstein females ranked on DWP at

About Zoetis

Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complimented by biodevices, genetic tests and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries.

In 2019, the company generated annual revenue of $6.3 billion with approximately 10,000 employees. For more information, visit MM-13242

About NMR

NMR is a leading dairy information service provider. Its core business is testing milk and it milk records more than 50% of the UK’s dairy cows. The company tests 98% of the UK’s bulk milk samples on behalf of milk buyers for payment purposes.

NMR is major supplier of animal identification tags and its laboratories also carry out disease surveillance and genomic testing. NMR has a turnover of £21 million and has 280 employees.

For more information visit the NMR web site:

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