The world of genetic testing has evolved in recent years, and with it a number of opportunities have been presented to breeders across a range of industries.
From the basics of parent verification to genetic condition testing, the industry is growing and societies are using it to ensure the integrity of their herd books.
Ideal or less ideal characteristics can be identified, such a homozygous polled or red gene carriers, and producers can place more selection pressure to find animals that tick more boxes for their enterprise.
It can be a small price to pay for a bundle that could provide cheap insurance, however there are still stud producers that are not utilising all or some of these technology services, and some that don't understand the importance.
A seedstock producer can test their entire sale draft and add an extra layer of confidence to their program to give buyers the satisfaction of knowing the animals are what they say they are and provide full details on their statuses or genes.
And vice-versa when buying, a purchaser can do so with confidence if these technologies have been used.
You can't argue with DNA.
I come from a science background rather than journalism.
At university I studied ag science and we talked a lot about evidence based decision making and how my generation and those younger than me coming through the industry will be searching for evidence, opinions, research and data to make or back up their choices.
In line with this, people are now asking for more and societies are evolving and changing their regulations.
But with testing can come ramifications.
For example, in the past 12 months, we tested sale animals that are also carriers, and society regulations meant they had to be removed from auction.
These are animals that are assumed free, not listed as having a percentage carrier on their pedigree, and shows that it can happen. Whether it be a parent verification issue further back in the lineage and/or they just have never been tested.
If you aren't testing, you are going in blind.
Looking through breed society websites, most talk about boosting the integrity of their herd book through increased testing. They encourage producers to adopt genetic testing to be informed of their animals and remove those with less ideal characteristics or carriers.
Upgrading DNA of older animals or testing them for the first time could result in the identification of more potential issues if nothing has been tested or verified in the past.
As more gene markers are identified and more tests come to the marketplace, animals that have been used for years could raise flags, drop out of the system and their progeny could go with them.
This was seen at a recent Speckle Park dispersal sale where the progeny of an older cow were to be deregistered and sold as commercial lots, after the cow's DNA test indicated she was horned.
Again, you can't argue with DNA.
And while some societies are changing and adapting regulations with the times, others are stuck in older ways.
Say you test, get an undesirable result, you know about it, but what happens next?
What are your options?
These rules and regulations within societies tend to divide the membership, with some commenting it shrinks the gene pool, limits the potential for new outcross genetics and so on, while others praise the decision that align with ensuring breed type, integrity, consistency.
Variances in opinions are formed based on risk profiles, education and understanding, and overall values and objectives studs hold within their programs.
I am not saying anyone is right or wrong, just that societies and members need to be willing to educate and discuss the topic of genetic technologies in the future as new developments come to the forefront.
Some breeds make it mandatory to have at least sire verification to register an animal, and at Beef Australia 2021 The Land heard discussions among some breeders that said parent verification should be mandatory for registration within a breed society.
Others commented that it is a lot of work, especially if you are running hundreds of cows in your breeding program.
But aren't you better investing and putting in the ground work now and establish systems to reap the rewards in the future?
This begs the question - as we continue to move forward technologically and genetically, will some breeders or breeds lose some older genetics or lines due to changes to regulation or registration criteria?
If embryos collected years ago from animals with no DNA profiles on file are then implanted, will they be able to be registered? If not, some historic pedigrees or breed legends kept on ice might disappear.
As more societies choose to revisit the topic, and mandate protocols around genetic testing, the best advice anyone can give is to keep an extra hair sample just in case.
Because you can't argue with DNA.
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