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Le Producteur de Lait Québécois MagazineVolume OctoberNumber 2019October 7, 2019

Compass: the new genetic management tool

La boussole Compass : le nouvel outil de décision génétique
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This fall, Lactanet and Holstein Canada will jointly launch Compass, a new software tool designed to help Canadian producers make better herd management decisions related to genetics. Developed with the support of Zoetis Canada, this free web-based tool will be available to all dairy producers throughout the country. This 3-way collaboration stems from the common interest of these three organizations to assist Canadian producers in making sound genetic decisions to maximize the profitability of their herds.

What does the Compass software do?

The Lactanet (formerly CDN) Website has been widely used to access genetic information for animals of all dairy breeds, with over a million visits per year. The features of the Website focus on animal queries and group lists based on various selection criteria, with the Genetic Evaluation page being the primary source of information on individual animals. The focus of Compass, however, is for Canadian producers to look closely at the genetics associated with the current herd inventory. The software has five main modules:

  • Past Breeding Success – Presents a detailed analysis of genetic trends for over 40 traits based on the selection and mating decisions made for the herd over the past 15 years. This module also provides an up-to-date ranking of a herd’s genetics compared to other Canadian breeders.
  • Herd Genetics – Lists all the animals currently included in the herd inventory, while offering various sorting and filtering tools. It also allows users to customize the various columns they wish to display. Genetic evaluations for each female are updated monthly to provide herd owners with precise information to facilitate decision making for selection and reproduction. Breeding data available for herds enrolled on milk recording is also used to generate a list of upcoming calvings as well as the genetic values of the prospective progeny.
  • Genetic Indexes – The aim of this feature is to help herd owners compare the projected genetic progress made using the LPI or Pro$ as their preferred national selection index to achieve breeding targets.
  • Strategy & Profitability – This module helps herd owners examine the return on investment associated with genomic testing of heifers, using sexed semen and/or beef semen in the herd as well as the appropriate blend of young sires versus proven sires. The economics behind each of these breeding strategies is specific to each herd in order to maximize profitability. 
  • Bull List – Herd owners may sort through and filter the active AI sires of each breed to help identify groups of bulls of potential interest for genetic selection decisions.

Why introduce Compass?

Over the past ten years, two important technologies have become increasingly popular: genomic testing for heifers and the use of sexed semen. Both of these strategies are helping dairy producers make better decisions with regard to herd genetics. The technologies focus primarily on the female side of genetic selection and herd improvement. The biggest challenge for producers with regard to genomic testing of their heifers is deciding on how many and which heifers to submit for evaluation. Taking into consideration only the expected return on the investment in genotyping, the vast majority of herd managers would be well advised to test only a part of their heifers as opposed to all of them. Compass was developed to help Canadian producers address this challenge. Likewise, this new tool will also identify a herd’s best females, the ones that should be inseminated with sexed semen to increase the probability of producing future replacement heifers for the herd. With respect to the increased use of sexed semen, there is also the possibility of using beef semen to inseminate animals whose offspring are not intended to become replacement heifers.

Compass was designed to complement – rather than compete with – the reproductive programs conventionally offered by AI companies. Although the Bull List module allows users to sort and filter lists of active sires, the tool provides no recommendations and does not work specifically with a group of bulls whose semen is available in the herd inventory. AI software tools generally focus on sire selection and reproductive decisions, while Compass concentrates on recommending the best decisions in terms of heifer rearing and selecting the best dams to produce replacement heifers for herd profitability.

How can I get access to Compass?

This new tool is scheduled to be released this fall. The exact date will be announced shortly by Lactanet and Holstein Canada. Once available, Compass will allow Canadian dairy producers/breeders to have unrestricted access to their herds’ data, at their convenience. The first step will be to create a Compass account, which will be easy to do through the links provided on the CDN (now known as Lactanet) and Holstein Canada Websites. While Compass will be available to all Canadian dairy producers, only animals registered in each breed association’s herd book will be included, since this is the main requirement for genetic evaluations in Canada. Herds enrolled on milk recording will enjoy the added benefit of having access to data for the complete herd inventory, which then leads to better recommendations with regard to genomic testing and the use of sexed semen. Compass also offers additional features for herds composed of Holstein, Ayrshire, Jersey or Brown Swiss animals, simply because of the limited use of genomic testing and/or sexed semen in other breeds.

Summary

Lactanet and Holstein Canada have been working in partnership to develop a new web-based genetic decision-making tool, which will soon be fully accessible to all Canadian dairy producers. Compass focuses on decisions made within individual herds to optimize the return on investment associated with genomic testing of heifers and the use of sexed semen, as well as the potential use of beef semen. In addition to providing a comprehensive overview of the results of past breeding decisions, the tool will also provide the most accurate genetic evaluations for all females in a herd, updated monthly as milk recording or type classification generate new performance data. Watch for the official launch of Compass this fall!

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