Important knowledge exchange was the order of the day at the Voermol/ SA Studbook breeding symposium on the second day of ALFA 2017.

Guest speaker, dr Francis Kearny of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) shared the Irish experience and focused on the accelerated profitability of livestock production through the introduction of modern breeding technologies.

According to Kearny the principles of genetic improvement revolves around a few key measures such as accurate data recording, accurate pedigree, genetic evaluations and a structured breeding programme. “One of the main technologies we have used in Ireland over the past couple of years has been genomic selection. It has proved to be a very useful tool in the context of accelerated genetic gain and it could double the rate of genetic gain for each of the different livestock species over the next couple of years.”

High quality breeding

In reply to the question of how the number of 5-star beef cows can be increased in the Irish herd, Kearny discussed the breeding of high index female animals with high index bulls to produce the next generation of young bulls. “These bulls will then be genotyped and will be selected on the basis of breeding values. The animals will then either go into AI or be purchased by the commercial beef farmer. They will then be used to generate the next generation of females to be used in his herd. The cycle continues over and over again.”

Dr Bobbie van der Westhuizen of SA Stud Book spoke on Logix Genomic Selection as an exciting new prospect and reality for South African Livestock Farmers. Dr Bernice Mostert of SA Stud Book explained the practical application of modern breeding principles to ensure profitability in small stock flocks.

“We realise more and more that the environmental impact plays a major role in the realisation of genetic potential. Remember, optimal production is a product of genetics and environment,” said Van der Westhuizen. He reminded breeders that animals cannot be directly compared if they are measured under different circumstances. – Marike Brits, Stockfarm