11 Mar 2017

Genomics helping one Cornwall farming family

A recent graduate from Harper Adams Agricultural University, Will Mitchell has returned to the home farm to put his BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Farm Business Management degree into practice. In partnership with his parents they run a mixed farm covering 162 hectares in North Cornwall. The herd of 100 pedigree Holstein’s under the Laram prefix, plus followers are using CIS.

In September Will and his family signed up to CIS Complete, an integrated package which includes type classification, monthly milk recording and genomic testing.  The advantage of CIS Complete is that everything is in one place with information easy to access, saving time and cost.  The family have access to a secure online portal where all the herd data is uploaded.  A wide variety of reports can be generated to review the performance of each cow, groups or the whole herd and identify any trends.

The family have been genomic testing for 18 months, but switched suppliers to CIS as the Complete Package offered a more cost effective option.  The genomic testing is done using the gKIT’s using tissue samples which Will has found to be more accurate than hair samples.

“We test all animals from a month of age to improve sire selection.  We can select bulls to help meet our milk contract by increasing the protein, milk, fat etc of the next generation.  Some of the heifers are coming through with genomic indexes so we can select animals based on that.  If and when we start selling surplus animals the genomic testing enables us to select animals with certain data to achieve premium prices,” comments Will.

“Genomics is an important part of future breeding; however it is still important to use proven sires.  The future, I believe, will see the genetic gain faster than 10 years ago however we must be careful with in-breeding and ensure that the genetic pool does not become to condensed,” concludes Will.

Over the next couple of years Will and his family plan to expand the herd to 180-200 cows and focus on breeding the very best animals with the support of genomics.