Genomic test made mandatory for Holstein pedigree bulls

All pedigree Holstein bull calves registered from 1 January 2021 will have to be genomically tested and be from a genomically tested dam, according to revised breed society rules.  

The changes will streamline the process for many breeders by combining parent verification and a genomic evaluation in one test, says Holstein UK.

Recently, some breeders had registered bull calves via a microsatellite DNA test to verify parentage and then followed up with a genomic test. Both tests cost £32.50 plus VAT.

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The current system could result in an overall saving for genomically tested herds. Farms that want to register pedigree bulls must also genomically test their dams for £23 plus VAT.

Holstein UK geneticist Darren Todd said the new process aims to:

  • Remove the need for multiple DNA sampling of male calves
  • Increase the accuracy of parentage testing and thus improve the integrity of the herd book
  • Provide more accurate genetic evaluations for young bulls
  • Provide future sire genomic profiles for genomic parentage tests.

“We’ve had a voluntary system in place for a few years to use genomics for parent verification, so the scheme has been tested by breeders,” said Dr Todd. 

“The change is really reflective of more farms getting involved with genomic testing and a changeover in technology from the old microsatellite DNA test.

“It will also help minimise the risk of parentage errors. These errors rarely happen, but if they do occur with bulls, it can cause major problems very quickly. Ultimately, all members serve to benefit from this.”

How it works

Members should continue to register male calves in the usual way. They will be automatically sent a sampling kit for the calf, and also the dam, if required.

The cost of the male test will remain at £32.50 plus VAT and the dam test will cost £23 plus VAT. Samples will be processed and parentage results should be available in six to eight weeks.

If a member reports that a UK-based dam is unavailable for testing, the registration of the male calf will be referred to the Holstein UK operations committee. 


Dr Todd said there will be very few exceptions, other than possibly if the sire of the calf does not have a UK genomic evaluation or if a foreign embryo transfer dam does not have a UK genomic profile.

In those cases, the male calf can undergo the existing microsatellite DNA test and if the member also wants a genomic test, that will be charged separately and cannot be used for parentage verification, he said.