Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Genomic selection is the way forward - Jens Lykou's success story

Genomic selection is the way forward

Jens Lykou in Denmark owns 450 cows and he uses genomic selection all the time to optimize the herd.

About a year ago, Jens Lykou began testing all females genomically as he became part of VikingGenetics' LD project. Jens is looking for higher reliability when selecting the best animals for breeding, and that he gets through genomic selection: "I get a lot of knowledge about my animals at an early age in their lives and it gives me a good basis when I have to decide how they could be used in breeding", Jens says. Jens has a goal of reaching 490 cows in July this year and has invested a lot in using sexed semen for a long time to ensure a sufficient number of replacement cows. Over the last three to four months, he has increased the usage of beef semen to slow down the number of heifers he gets, as his goal is just about to be reached. Today, 30 percent of the best heifers are inseminated with sexed semen X-Vik, while 20 percent of the cows are inseminated with beef semen.

Which animals should I choose?

The genomic tests help Jens decide exactly which animals he should use in breeding – on which of them he should use sexed semen and which should be inseminated with beef semen. It's all about economics: "In the past, we looked very much at each cow, while today we focus on optimizing the entire herd production, as well as animal health and much more. Ultimately, it is about getting the best animals that can contribute positively to the bottom line" - he says.
By means of genomic tests, Jens also finds the best heifers and cows for embryo flushing. The country's highest tested heifer after VH Ponder is found in the herd, and with her +33 in NTM she is an obvious candidate for flushing at a later date. In addition, Lykousminde has delivered a number of good bulls to the VikingGenetics’ breeding program over the years, most recently VH Vesuv.

 Denmark’s highest tested heifer with +33 in NTM after VH Ponder (left)

Breeds cows for robot milking

Jens Lykou invested in the first two robots for his herd in 2003, and today he has seven Lely robots for the cows. This means that he has been breeding for years to achieve balanced udders with not too close rear teats. Too close rear teats do not work for milking in the robots. Breeding advisor Jan Hinrichsen takes this into account when compiling the mating plan, and here too, genomic selection is an advantage:

"It increases the reliability of all individual characteristics of the females, so they get the same reliability as the bulls - which gives the best combinations in the selection of bulls”, comments Jan. Genomic selection therefore has many advantages, and Jens is early on it with testing his animals. The calves are tested as soon as possible: "We already take the test when the calf has just arrived and needs an ear tag" comments Jens.


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