The local dairy industry provides British Columbians with fluid milk, domestic cheese, yogurt and milk products. In 2009 BC’s 545 dairy producers produced over 650 million litres of milk, and per capita consumption of fluid milk in the province was over 77 litres. BC is home to approximately 72,000 dairy cows, the BC dairy industry provides employment for over 11,000 people and the contribution to the provincial and federal economies from this industry is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion per year.
Traditional evaluation methods for predicting lactation efficiency in dairy young stock (heifers) have poor reliability (in the 35% range). Genomic testing of 3-4 month old heifers on an individual dairy could provide an economically important tool to identify at an early age which animals to use for dairy production. A new research program, funded in part by Genome BC, aims to demonstrate that genomic evaluation using genetic markers across the entire genome of registered dairy cattle on multiple farms will lead to better breeding and selection management decisions that will result in a more productive herd and improved dairy profitability. The objectives of the research project are to demonstrate the increased reliability of genetic ranking of the female young stock and mating through use of genomics; to perform an economic analysis of the financial benefit to dairy farm operators who use genomics; and to increase the acceptance of genomic technology by dairy producers through their direct involvement with the research project.