DNA birth tagging and testing provides certainty for Southland farmers

category Genetics

DNA birth tagging and testing all their replacement heifers is providing David and Joanna Diprose with certainty of parentage even when they’re not hands-on farm.


David and Joanna own a 305-hectare 800 cow farm in Ermedale and a 79-hectare 250 cow operation in Wyndham. One property is run by a manager and the other by a 24% sharemilker. The Diproses have used CRV Ambreed’s DNA parentage testing service for the last three years to determine the ancestry of their two crossbred herds. They have recently received results from DNA testing this season’s 310 replacement heifers.


“With the number of cows we’re running, the DNA testing ensures we’re linking the right calf to the right cow,” says David. “Quite often we were in the paddock guessing who the calf’s mother was. Because we’re not as hands on as we once were, the DNA tagging give us certainty of parentage for each calf.”


DNA parentage testing has become more accessible to dairy farmers since the launch of CRV’s revitalised service in March last year.  The Gene Mapping service uses progressive technology to identify the ancestry of individual stock. DNA samples are collected by taking a small piece of tissue from the animal’s ear. Allflex tissue sampling ear tags are either applied to calves at birth, or as buttons on mature animals. Tissue samples are then sent to CRV’s approved affiliated DNA genotyping laboratory, GenomNZ, where DNA is extracted for parentage and single gene analysis.


CRV Ambreed DNA programme manager Isabelle Phipps says DNA verification leaves no room for error when deciding on the best direction for a herd.


“Herd records will show exactly who the animal’s sire and dam are through specific genetic markers. The farmer can then determine which cows in the herd are the best, and which sires they can be mated to.”


The Diproses carry out DNA testing as part of their involvement in CRV’s Progeny Test programme, but say the information is also valuable when it comes to making stock management decisions on farm.


“The information gives us the ability to cull the right animals and know that when we herd test, we can identify the mother and better see the correlations between the animals” says David. “In the past we’ve culled cows that weren’t producing, when, if their mothers had been identified correctly, we may have kept them in the herd.”


David says CRV’s DNA tagging service is good value for money, with the benefits far outweighing the cost.


“The cost of rearing a heifer now is just too expensive to be rearing the wrong one. Knowing the parentage of our young stock means we don’t have to put our non-replacements out to grazing or mate them. We also have the option of rearing them and selling them as rising two-year olds.


“We’re also not building our herd anymore, so we can be a lot more selective about the animals we want to work with.”



Phipps says animals with incorrect parentage information can have inaccurate BW, PW and BVs, which is vital when making mating and culling decisions on-farm. Parentage results are sent by CRV to New Zealand Animal Evaluation, which uses the data to identify New Zealand’s most efficient feed convertors to milk.


“Inaccurate parental data is not just an issue dealt with on-farm. It impacts the wider industry too because accurate ancestry information substantiates breeding values and breeding indexes.”

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