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Genetics companies urged to eliminate small calf syndrome

May 2, 2013

Genetics companies urged to work together to eliminate small calf syndrome

New Zealand Animal Evaluation Ltd (NZAEL), the DairyNZ subsidiary company that manages the National Breeding Objective for New Zealand dairy cattle, is encouraging and welcoming moves by genetics companies Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and CRV Ambreed to work together and manage small calf syndrome out of the industry.

Both LIC and CRV have jointly announced that eradicating the genetic variation from the national dairy herd is a priority.

NZAEL spokesman and DairyNZ Strategy and Investment Leader, Dr Bruce Thorrold, says the problem has been identified through farmer reporting, combined with the latest genetic screening tools. “Each of these is vital to the industry, and this latest response emphasises the importance of data capture and sharing,” he says.

“While this is a very small problem on New Zealand dairy farms right now, it is encouraging to see that the cause has been identified, that the companies are jointly working on the issue and that it will be solved as a priority,” says Dr Thorrold.

“The breeding companies’ strategies will prevent the problem becoming more widespread.”

Dr Thorrold says recessive genes occur in all populations, and the power of New Zealand’s on-farm data collection and research activity means that these effects are identified while still at low levels.

“That means the issue can be managed at an industry level in a way that just wouldn’t be possible by individual farmers. Farmers’ confidence in the use of artificial insemination (AI) should be increased by this result.”

He says NZAEL expects all the breeding companies to work together to screen bulls, share information and provide farmers with good advice this spring about potential small calves and mating choices. NZAEL will be monitoring this on behalf of farmers. It is also advising farmers to focus on their record keeping.

“It is important for farmers to keep accurate records of parentage.

“Our research shows that with the mis-tagging and mis-recording that currently happens on dairy farms, around 23 percent of herds, or around one million New Zealand dairy cows, are identified to the wrong sire. The LIC datamate or CRV Ambreed’s sire match can only protect cows whose parentage is accurate,” he says.

New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited (NZAEL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of DairyNZ, which manages the National Breeding Objective (NBO) for New Zealand dairy cattle. It aims to develop, promote and deliver technologies that optimise genetic improvement in the national dairy herd. NZAEL exists to ensure relevant on-farm data is captured, data quality is high, data is analysed accurately using world leading analytical methods and outputs are then applied in an appropriate manner. Visit for more information.


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