Exploiting opportunities in dairy cattle breeding using mid-infrared spectral data associated to novel traits in the Walloon Region of Belgium
The Walloon Region of Belgium has started very early (since 2005) to collect mid-infrared (MIR) milk spectral data produced during routine milk performance recording by Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) organizations and to research the possibilities offered by this technology. Already in 2008, a Walloon Research and Development (R&D) consortium was created. This partnership developed a framework to collect, to store, to research and to use milk MIR spectral data first from DHI, later from milk payment. This strategy was internationalized and related innovative “open” calibration schemes were developed. New international partners can benefit from this expertise. In order to get appropriate scientific and industry impacts, several major advances were achieved, the three most important being: 1) common strategies and specifications to access milk MIR data on many spectrometers from different laboratories and countries, to store and use this data; 2) standardization of MIR data across different spectrometers overtime to generate harmonized MIR data (i.e., organized through an international network); 3) making different, often heterogeneous, reference data useful for the development of novel calibration equations. In this “open” calibration strategy, partners get access to the latest version of the prediction equations and updates when new partners join, still retaining full control and confidentiality of their data, only the calibration equation building organizations have access to all data restricted to its use for equation building. We will present opportunities and challenges for two groups of MIR based traits, fatty acids and methane emission proxy traits in dairy cattle breeding. Similarly, R&D are ongoing for the use of MIR data for many other traits as milk and milk product (i.e., cheese making) quality, animal efficiency and resilience, health and welfare traits (e.g., resistance to heat stress) to be used in future genomic evaluations. We have experienced that there are countless opportunities in MIR based breeding, only restricted by the limits in financial and human resources available in the Walloon Region.
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