Incorporating novel data-driven approaches into cattle genetic improvement programmes leads to better animal performance and overall economic gains

Impact: Technological

Description of impact

Underpinning Research: 
Using novel methods to integrate data from multiple sources, our research revealed that fitness traits related to production, including fertility, survival to productive age and reductions in culling for non-production reasons, of dairy and beef cattle are more heritable than previously thought, and can be selected for in genetic improvement programmes. 
Significance and Reach of Impact: 
We worked with key industry partners including the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and pedigree societies such as the British Limousin Cattle Society to develop tools to enhance genetic and genomic evaluations for key production and fitness traits. Results of these evaluations are published for 95% of all dairy bulls marketed for artificial insemination in the UK and for 65% of the current UK milking herd every month, informing mating decisions on farms across the UK. Using this data-enhanced genetic understanding has resulted in more accurate selection and thus faster rates of genetic gain in key traits; for example, data from 2019 shows that dairy cows produced milk for 4-6 months longer in their lives than they did in 2013. The present net economic value of these accelerated rates of genetic gain across the UK national cattle herd is estimated at between GBP60,000,000 – GBP80,000,000 per year for the dairy industry and approximately GBP24,000,000 per year for the beef industry, over and above the gains described in REF2014. AHDB estimates the accelerated rates of genetic gain to be worth GBP750,000,000 over the next 5 years.

A joint submission with the University of Edinburgh to REF2021.
Impact date20142020
Category of impactTechnological