Jersey breeders see genetic progress

Jersey breeders gathered in Northland last month to hear how the sector's livestock improvement programme was progressing.

About 50 attended this year's JerseyGenome two-day programme at Daniel and Freya Lynch, at Waipu. Joint venture partners Jersey New Zealand and CRV Ambreed opened the event with a presentation summarising progress in the JerseyGenome programme.

Jersey New Zealand spokeswoman Angela Makara said the genetics programme had seen significant gains over a short period - in each of the traits it measures to gauge genetic improvement.

''The summary showed that, to date, there has been a significant percentage gain over the seven traits used when selecting teams.

''The average rate of genetic gain on all seven traits over the last five intakes is 47% - a phenomenal achievement for a scheme technically still in its early stages,'' she said.

The seven traits measured by the programme are breeding worth, protein, liveweight, total longevity, fertility, udder overall and dairy conformation.

''The rate of genetic gain has surpassed our expectations to date,'' Ms Makara said.

Overall, it was considered the programme was contributing positively to the industry, providing real benefits for the breed, the farmer, Jersey New Zealand members and the two joint venture partners, she said.

Delegates heard from various speakers during the event including Phil Beatson of CRV Ambreed, who talked about what the structure of a genetic improvement programme should look like and the developing role of genomics in such a programme.

New Zealand Animal Evaluation manager Jeremy Bryant, Jacqui Forsyth, of Animal Breeding Services, Massey university animal genetics specialist Hugh Blair, and

Susan Meszaros, the developer of the Total Genetic Resource Management programme, also spoke. Dr Meszaros explained the role her group's software could play in enhancing genetic gain and how the tool could be used in the selection of sires used in the JerseyGenome programme.

Attendees were able to tour not only the Lynch family operation but also that of the Grant Family Trust.

- by Ruth Grundy