EAST LANSING, Mich. — It was a phone call from a broker that made Rob West, manager at the Michigan State University Dairy Farm, scramble to find results for genomic testing completed on a group of heifers in April at the university’s farm.
"Anybody that follows genomic testing can get on the list and find out results," West said. "We’re not on the list, and the people who are find out about test scores before we do. We heard about the results when the phone started ringing."
And the results were surprising. Michigan Beluga Polar, a 6-month-old Holstein heifer at the farm, had a composite score of 2626 on a genomic test, resulting in her holding the title as 10th highest genomic scored cow in the world. Currently, the highest score on a genomic test is 2779. All cattle at the research and teaching farm routinely undergo genomic evaluation.
The heifer fetched a whopping price of $225,000 and will make her new home at Butlerview Farm in Chebanse, Ill.
"Without genomic testing, we use parent average to determine traits, which results in about a 50 percent reliability," West said. Genomic testing results in a reliability factor of 75 percent for most traits.
The heifer is out of Michigan Bokem Dawn and is sired by Pen-Col Beluga. Michigan Beluga Polar’s grand dam and great-grand dam are both classified VG-85.
The genomic test reveals that the heifer should be +1701 on milk, +77 fat, +57 protein, +6.7 productive life and has Net Merit$ +898. Her udder composite score is 3.8
West said the heifer is out of a cow family that was regularly flushed with consistent success.
According to Declan Patton, marketing, genetics and sales manager for Butlerview Farm, the heifer will be flushed and used to breed a great next generation. Butlerview owns only one female with a higher genomic score, and she holds the No. 4 spot worldwide.
"We are in the business to breed the most efficient genetics, and genomic technology can help the world identify the top 1 percent of dairy cattle," Patton said.
It is a twist of fate that Michigan Beluga Polar was even born. Her great grand-dam broke her leg 132 days into her first lactation – just after the flush that produced the egg which eventually gave birth to Michigan Beluga Polar’s grand dam.
West said proceeds from the sale will go to much-needed improvements and maintenance on the farm.
"Recent budget cycles and shortfalls have kept us from doing some of the maintenance that needs to be done," he said. "We haven’t decided on anything specific yet, but we have some ideas what to do with the money."