Impact of genomic selection on the Evolution breeding program


  • T. De Bretagne


The implementation of genomic selection in dairy cattle has generatedmany changes in the design of breeding programs as well as in the organizationof AI breeding companies. The acceptable reliability obtained on a large numberof traits whatever their heritability, for males as well as for females, turnsupside down the typical selection programs used for more than 50 years. Thebirth in 2013 of Evolution, a new French AI company merging the Amelis andCreavia cooperatives and marketing 5 million doses a year in France and abroad,is directly linked to this technological breakthrough. Its Holstein breedingprogram is now completely based on genomic evaluation for the selection of bestcandidates and involves more than 3,200 females and 3,000 males genotyped everyyear. Somewhat overlooked in the past, the female pathway becomes strategicwith 720 elite cows selected as potential bull dams. More intense selectionentails production of more progeny from the best females, especially heifers,through an increase in the number of ovum pick-ups and embryos transferred. Theobjective set by Evolution is to produce and transplant 8,500 embryos everyyear. To improve the management of genetic variability, more than 130 distinctsires of sons are mated with elite bulls dams, of which 90% are young bullsthemselves. Selection intensity on bulls used AI - about 3.5% - is as crucialas before, and aims at marketing 150 new young bulls every year. This ambitiousprogram requires a strong partnership with the breeders, which guarantees boththe development of their genetics and the economic sustainability of theirherd. As an example, Evolution proposes stations for donor cows and a networkof recipient cows available for the multiplication of elite cows. Genomicselection in dairy cattle has become a real race against the clock with moreintense competition. On top of the acknowledged higher genetic gain permittedby genomic selection, new challenges lie ahead regarding research and inclusionof new traits.

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