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17 Jan 2019 - By Lars Nielsen, Head of Breeding VikingGenetics

Identifying genetic disorders with genomic testing

Genetic information will be published in the Nordic national cattle databases in Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, and it is already available on all bull profiles on VikingGenetics’ websites. 

The genetic information gives us an excellent tool to detect recessives, and knowing the status means we can continue to use the top bulls in our breeding programme and retain genetic variation. Our plan is to eliminate the recessives that cause death of calves as quickly as possible. The carriers causing early abortions will also be eliminated over time, as we will always select a recessive free bull calf if two calves have an equal breeding value.

In January, genetic information including genetic disorders will be published for individual bulls on:

  • National cattle databases in Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
  • NAV (Nordic Cattle Genetic Evaluation)
  • VikingGenetics’ website bull profiles

This is a part of a strategy to handle genetic disorders at a herd level.

What is genetic information?

Genetic traits are a group of traits where the phenotype is related to a single gene, for example milk protein type, polledness and recessive disorders. Genomic selection enables easy access to this information, and a lot of new information is emerging which we see as a big advantage.

Recessives are a well-known phenomenon in breeding. A recessive gene is a gene that is masked by a dominant gene. In the past we were unable to detect recessive disorders until defective calves were born and we found the causal mutation. BLAD, CVM and BY are examples of this.

Genomic test of females allows you to identify genetic disorders at an early stage and plan matings to avoid unsuitable matings and minimise the number of offspring with genetic disorders.

New inheritable disorders are being discovered all the time and this new information will be available for both bulls and females and will be shown on bull profiles on the web. VikingGenetics will regularly publish information on new disorders we test for and which disorders we have zero tolerance for in the VikingGenetics breeding programme, as well as the frequency of disorders in the population. At VikingGenetics, we are open and transparent and take responsibility for sustainable breeding.

VikingGenetics manages all known recessives in its breeding programme

Mating plan programmes will manage all known disorders in the future and be able to avoid carrier x carrier matings if both parents have been genomically tested.

In the long term, it is important to control the role of inbreeding to ensure sustainable development. As such, it is important to highlight the fact that genomic selection has given us an excellent tool to detect and eliminate defective genes from the population. Together with our modern mating programmes, we can ensure that carrier x carrier matings are avoided.

By eliminating recessives step by step in a controlled way, we can continue to make superior genetic progress on important financial and ethical traits at the same time.

It is important to control the role of inbreeding to ensure sustainable development

Lars Nielsen,
Head of Breeding, VikingGenetics

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