DEAR SIR: I would like to commend your recent thought-provoking editorial on the merits of a national genotyping programme for all calves at registration.

We are very fortunate to have an integrated livestock database in ICBF, which facilitates the recording of animal performance and calculates genetic evaluations, as well as storing the ancestry details of those animals.

This well of information put our livestock industry in a good position in 2009 to adopt the new technology of genotyping.

The first benefit of genotyping is confirmation of the parentage (if both are already genotyped or if not, confirmation of the sire, as all AI sires and pedigree stock bulls are genotyped) and the establishment of the calf’s unique DNA fingerprint for life.

As your article pointed out, this is the ultimate in traceability and could be used to verify origin of meat products and would be of benefit to farmers where health issues arise at slaughter and confirmation of the identity through a tissue sample is sought.

The second benefit of genotyping is the genetic evaluations calculated for each animal. This is an additional layer of reliability of the expected performance of each calf, dairy or beef, in terms of milk, fat, protein and meat, and enables better informed decisions to be made at farm level about the future of every animal.

The biggest requirement for maximum accuracy in genomic evaluations is maximum levels of genotyping. Our competitors in developed agricultural economies are using extensive levels of genotyping in their herds.

As a major exporter of livestock products, we need to keep pace and to aim for the front. As we deal with the issue of emissions, genotypes taken today may provide very useful data as well as dealing with future issues that we know nothing of now.

Finally, your point on cost is very relevant. The first genotypes were costing over €200, then increased numbers brought it down to €50 and now it’s at €22.

Greater numbers plus automation and efficiencies in the process can bring it lower.

Genotyping all calves at birth would make a great joint venture between all interests in the livestock industry.