Dairy genomic test adds health risk evaluation to traits

Animal health company Zoetis has launched a genomic test that will allow dairy farmers to select stock according to the genetic risk of developing disease.

The company claims its Clarifide Plus genomic test is the first to incorporate health and wellness evaluation, along with the production traits delivered by standard testing.

See also: How to use genomics to improve dairy economic performance

The test, specifically designed for Holstein and Jersey cattle, includes an evaluation for:

  • Mastitis
  • Lameness
  • Metritis
  • Retained placenta
  • Displaced abomasum
  • Ketosis

Information is also available on the likelihood of calves developing:

  • Scours
  • Mortality
  • Respiratory disease

Zoetis vet Dave Armstrong explained the significance of selecting for health. When the top third of cows were compared with the bottom third for individual wellness traits, there was:

  • 38% less incidence of a retained placenta
  • 76% less incidence of metritis
  • 49% less incidence of lameness
  • 49% less incidence of mastitis

Dr Armstrong said: “Selecting for traits that have an emphasis on health, longevity and wellness allows producers to make decisions earlier and invest in raising healthy animals.

“Healthier cows stay in the herd longer and make a big difference in a herd’s profitability.”

The test is also combined with a dairy wellness profit (DWP) index , based on lifetime productivity and health.

The DWP index gives an overall view of how profitable a cow will be.

”On UK farms, the difference in lifetime profitability between the top and bottom 10% of animals ranked by DWP is approximately £1,029,” said Dr Armstrong.

And he added that it cost £2.31 a day or £1,819 on average to rear a dairy heifer replacement, with the payback taking until the middle of her second lactation.

“Predicting a heifer’s ability and health earlier means farmers can manage the upfront costs by only keeping the heifers they want, keeping them in the herd longer and significantly increasing their overall rate of genetic gain.”