Impact of genomics on international cooperation for dairy genetics

Last changed: 12 March 2013

Joao Dürr, Interbull Centre, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, SLU. 

The ultimate goal of Interbull has been to facilitate international trade of dairy genetics through networking, harmonization, standardization and across-countries comparisons. This existing framework proved to be instrumental in the onset of genomic selection by providing the forum for development of methods and policies to incorporate the new technologies into the existing national and international evaluation systems.

The early realization that the accuracy of genomic prediction equations is highly dependent on the size of the reference populations has amplified the importance of the Interbull MACE EBVs as source of phenotypic information on the foreign animals required as references. Genomics diversified the Interbull services portfolio: validation of national genomic EBVs, multi-country genomic evaluations of Brown Swiss populations (Intergenomics), international genomic evaluations of young bulls (GMACE) and international repository of genomic information. Few years after the bovine SNP panels started to be massively used, the scenario of the dairy breeding industry has already changed substantially and it is fated to continue moving towards a new paradigm.

Exporting countries took the lead in adopting genomic technologies, formed consortia to share genotypes and polarized the market into two major competing blocks. The technological gap between exporters and importers widened rapidly, both due to the required investments and to the scarcer local expertise. Poor results from multi-breed genomic predictions have hindered genomic applications for smaller populations and the Holstein hegemony advances at a higher speed. Potential uses of genomics are limitless, but new actors with differentiated resources are more likely to take the lead and supply innovative options to dairy breeders in a similar fashion to what happens in the poultry and swine industries.

Finally, data ownership became the center of the debate and the control over the anima l improvement process is shifting. Interbull is being transformed as well, but its unique role in harmonization is more needed than ever.