Genotyping & Parent Verification

May 15th, 2015 by Kim

I’m sure most ADCA folks are aware that there is a proposal for the Association to begin requiring genotyping for heifers, so that we can move to a fully parent verified registry.  I understand that this is controversial, but I hope that people will see the wisdom of it.  We here at Hope Refuge Farm have been genotyping & parent verifying our entire herd for quite a few years now, because we firmly believe it is “best practice”, and definitely in the best interest of the breed.

Like father, like son.

Like father, like son.

So, you ask, WHY should we have to do this?  I have heard of several situations where somebody tried to PV (parent verify) a cow they bought, and mistakes in the pedigree were discovered.  One or both of the cow’s parents were not who they thought they were, so the person did not have the bloodlines they thought they had bought for their herd.  I, for one, want to know that when I purchase an animal, it is indeed the animal & bloodlines that the breeder has claimed it is, and PV is the only way to be certain of that.

Hello Sister! Sometimes it's easy to tell your calves apart.....but sometimes it isn't.

Hello Sister! Sometimes it’s easy to tell your calves apart…..but sometimes it isn’t.

We all like to think that all Dexter breeders are decent, honest folk, who wouldn’t deceptively register a crossbred animal.  While that may for the most part be true, I feel it is foolish to count on “breeder integrity” to ensure the purity of our breed and the accuracy of our pedigrees.  For one, you can be perfectly decent & honest, and still make a mistake.  Secondly, there are people who are decent & honest, but are still sloppy about their management, record keeping, ID’ing, etc, and for all practical purposes really have no clue who is the dam or sire of a given calf.  And thirdly, the reality of human nature is simply that we are not all decent & honest, it’s just a fact of life.  And all of this will lead to pedigrees that are INCORRECT.

Why does that really matter, you may wonder?  Well, certain bloodlines are known for producing animals with particular, desirable traits, such as better hindquarter muscling, higher volume milk production, and exceptional temperaments.  If you purchased an animal because you want those traits, and then were to find out that the pedigree is incorrect & she doesn’t have the desired bloodline you thought she did, that could throw quite a wrench in your breeding plans.

Are you my mother? Sara wouldn't dream of letting another calf nurse, but some cows will, which can make it hard to know who belongs to who.

Are you my mother? Sara wouldn’t dream of letting another calf nurse, but some cows will, which can make it hard to know which calf belongs to which cow.

Even more important is the issue of obligate non-carrier status for chondro & PHA.  Right now the way things are, if you have a bull & a cow who are both tested as non-carriers for either lethal mutation, you may claim that their offspring is an “obligate” non-carrier….WITHOUT ANY PROOF THAT THE CALF’S PEDIGREE IS ACCURATE.  If somebody has carrier & non-carrier animals on their property & would make the mistake of claiming a non-carrier parent when it was actually a carrier parent, that could prove to be a devastating mistake.  I feel that this is poor policy that leaves us with undue risk, and we would be much better off requiring PV to obtain obligate non-carrier status.

Play time! Having multiple bulls on the farm requires careful management & good records, so you know who sires which calves.

Play time! Having multiple bulls on the farm requires careful management & good records, so you know who sires which calves.

So, what can you do to make a difference?  First of all, begin genotyping & PV’ing your Dexters.  The proposal will only require heifers born from 2016 on to be genotyped, but I would encourage you to do your older cows as well.  The more older animals that get done, the more accuracy we can have if mistakes get fixed.  Second, please vote “YES” on this proposal at the AGM in June.  If you can’t make it to Harrisonburg in person, send your proxy vote along with somebody you trust.

We will be attending the AGM, with a few of our youngsters in tow this time.  I’m going to give showing a whirl & see how it goes!  Hope to see you there.  But if not, I can take your proxy vote for you!

One Response to “Genotyping & Parent Verification”

  1. Susan Lea Says:

    This is a good and timely post, Kim. In addition to breeder integrity and accuracy of record-keeping, there’s the whole bovine side of things, too! You may have very trustworthy breeders who keep good records, but you just can’t trust those sneaky cows! 😉 A year or so ago on the Dexter ProBoards forum, one of the members had two cows calve overnight with both of them claiming the same calf. There was no way to tell by color or any other method which calf belonged to which cow. She made a guess and separated them accordingly so the poor unwanted one could nurse. Fortunately she had already genotyped both cows and her bull, so she was able to send in tail hairs for the calves to PV them and find out for sure which cow belonged with which calf. Many people think that on the bovine side of things the main error that happens is getting the wrong sire because a different bull jumped in and bred a cow or cleaned up after a failed AI, but the truth of the matter is that plenty of attempts to PV a purchased calf have ended up with the supposed dam being the wrong one. If you bought a bull or heifer because you love its dam’s udder, that would be a sad discovery! So yes, let’s vote for genotyping heifers! Looking forward to seeing you at AGM, and I’ll be rooting for you!

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