In its simplest form, genetic progress occurs when a producer collects data points for performance traits of interest and makes decisions based on their individual performance and their relationship to others in the herd. The livestock industry, in general, has excelled at making progress for production traits where this method of recording phenotypes is convenient.
What are the issues?
Where we hit the road block using a solely performance (phenotype) and pedigree model is when we are pushing to gain new ground in areas of production that either require measurements from specific genders, require the animal to mature to a certain point or require post-mortem assessment.
Using a sole phenotype/pedigree model to predict Total Born (TB) for a young boar we would observe the following timeline:
While every daughter that farrows contributes to an increased accuracy for the boar’s predicted TB performance, a significant amount of time has passed. With genomics, we can gain ground before we even send the boar to stud.
Certainty over assumptions
Have you noticed differences in full sibling performance? Without the use of genomics, we assume that the relationship between the offspring and both the sire and dam is 50% (the offspring inherits half of the genes from their mother and half from their father). In reality, we know this is not exactly true. With genomics, we can fine tune our pedigree relationships to quantify the exact relationship between each genotyped animal — a genomic relationship pedigree. Additionally, genotype data is used as a tool to identify and correct pedigree mistakes, even validating population integrity.
What we are doing about it
The use of genomics is a key factor in Acuity’s genetic development programs. For each of these situations, we can implement genomics and observe an increase in accuracy for targeted traits. We know that the integration of genomic data into genetic selection affords us the opportunity to make selection decisions on younger animals with more precision and confidence. Coupled with the data we collect in our Commercial Test Herd, this drives better decisions. It varies by line and by trait, but estimated breeding value (EBV) accuracy can increase as much as 30% with the use of genomics. We want to do our due diligence, making the most informed decisions at the nucleus level, so we can ensure that we are selecting animals who will perform as expected for our Acuity customers.