Genomic testing could be possibly used to identify stolen animals or cattle, according to Teagasc’s Dr Donagh Berry.

Speaking at the Teagasc National Beef Conference in Athlone on Tuesday, the Teagasc Geneticist said Ireland has the largest database of beef cattle in the world, but for it to be effective to prevent cattle rustling each animal must be genotyped.

“This technology is used to put people to the death penalty. If all the samples are taken correctly, It is 100% accurate,” he said.

Along with the identification of stolen animals, Berry also said that genomics can allow the meat industry to identify which animal a sample of meat comes from.

Meat traceability is another big issue and it is going to be more and more contentious as we go into the future and the demands of the consumers are growing.

Berry also told the 750 strong crowd in attendance that the advantage of having a huge database is that we can identify the sire of a given animal as long as the sire has been genotyped.

Genomic technologies can also be used in breeding programmes to advance genetic gain, he said, and in the dairy herd, approximately 70% of the sires used in 2015 were genomic sires.

It can also be used to identify disease and health traits, he said, with research showing the prevalence of fatal diseases such as CVM in the dairy herd and TB can be identified using genetic profiling.

Inaccurate recording limiting genetic gain

The Teagasc Geneticist also said that inaccurate sire recording is slowing down the rate of genetic gain that can be achieved at farm level.

“If you look at the data, approximately 15% of the data farmers record is incorrect. That is actually good. If you look at countries like New Zealand, they have around 30% inaccuracies,” he said.

On a national level, Berry said that 69% of the calves born have their sire recorded, but 30% of them are useless for genetic evaluations because the sires pedigree has not been recorded.

“This allows us to fill in those gaps and increase genetic gain. If we look at the impact of that 15% error, that is reducing our genetic gain for fertility traits by around 12%.

So we are going 12% slower than what we should be if we were to correct all of those errors.