Saturday 24 February, 2024

Partner Insight: Prompt data lets you maximise return on investment from heifers

clock • 4 min read
A full genomic profile can be produced from a single sample

A full genomic profile can be produced from a single sample

If heifers are one of farmers biggest potential cash cows, farmers can understand how they can maximise their potential thanks to a new genomic tool which informs them of the best calves to invest in.

Getting an independent complete picture of a heifer calf's potential as quickly as possible is the key to getting the best return from the investment in replacements. 

"While heifers are the lifeblood of your business and the future of your milking herd, they represent a significant investment and you need to maximise the return, which means only rearing the very best," comments Rob Horn, technical sales specialist at Neogen

"Each heifer reared to calve in at two years old is going to cost around £1,700-£2000.  This is why it is crucial you only rear the best quality calves which will grow into efficient and profitable dairy cows. But how do you identify the calves worth investing in?   

"The simple answer is by having the best quality and independent data to inform your decision-making," says Rob.  

Top tips  

He emphasises two pieces of information are essential to make the best decisions.  

The first is a genomic assessment of every calf, identifying those with the best genetic merit.  This allows heifers to be reared that will improve the quality of the herd. 

The second is knowing the BVD status of the calf so you do not incur costs rearing BVD positive animals which will never achieve their potential and are a risk to the rest of the herd.  

And, he says, you need this information as soon as possible after calves are born. 

Key knowledge  

"Neogen® Igenity Extra can provide all the information you need from a single tissue which will tell you the genomic makeup of the heifer and crucially whether she is clear of BVD.   

"The genomic data tell you everything about her future capabilities, while the BVD status will ensure you only rear heifers that will grow to their potential." 

This inclusive analysis not only provides dual perspectives from a singular sample but also delivers cost savings, time efficiency, and contributes to the overall enhancement of herd biosecurity.  

Tissue samples are sent away to be analysed and the results are returned swiftly

Your sample will undergo processing at the company's Ayr-based laboratory, ensuring that both BVD and Genomic results are obtained from a unified location, streamlining the information gathering process for your convenience. 

Samples are first tested for BVD status and only samples from calves identified as BVD negative will then be genomically tested.  These results, which are evaluated according to the AHDB standards, are back on farm in a matter of days ensuring rapid turnaround and full taceability throughout the process. 

Cow performance  

Genomics can help you can predict how well a cow will perform and how it compares to the other animals in your herd at a glance. This lets you see the best, rank your animals, and puts you in greater control of your herd. 

If the calf is BVD positive you will know not to invest in her, saving the rearing costs and allowing labour to be focussed on BVD negative animals.  Then the Igenity genomics results give you an accurate picture of how well BVD negative animals will perform by looking at around 50 traits including production and management. 

By identifying your best animals and confirming they are BVD free, Rob says it is possible to maximise the rate of herd improvement, only breeding from the best genetics and ensuring the sires selected will improve the traits you need to improve. 

"Igenity® aims to help you understand the data's implications for your herd. Igenity data is independent from semen sales and not tied to a semen supply contract, which allows you to have unrestricted access to the widest selection of sires ensuring you can make the best breeding decisions for the future of your business.  

"Getting the most comprehensive data on heifer calves gives the power to reduce uncertainty when selecting heifer replacements, maximising the return on investment in heifer rearing while improving the rate of genetic gain." 

Global geonomics  

  • Neogen is a leading global genomics technology provider with six laboratories worldwide.  It is also a leader in animal safety, supplying a range of animal health and dairy hygiene products, and in testing for food safety.   
  • Formed in 1982, Neogen provides genomic tests for dairy and beef cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, fish and domestic pets. They work closely with breeding companies, Governments, commercial food companies and directly with farmers. In 2022 they tested more than 5.5 million genomic tests globally across all species. 
  • Neogen are the only UK company able to provide independent genomic and BVD testing from a single sample through its Igenity® Extra, making the process as swift and straightforward as possible.  
  • For more information visit

This content is sponsored by Neogen.