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IGENITY provides DNA-based performance analysis on individual animals

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

IGENITY, a company founded about seven years ago, is the DNA testing division of Merial animal health. Today it can provide data on 14 economically viable traits on individual animals based on a DNA sample collected and mailed by producers.
“We are able to perform analysis on 14 economically important traits, in addition to detecting some genetic abnormalities. We started with one trait and expect to continue to expand the number of traits we can analyze,” explains IGENITY Technical Services Director Kevin DeHaan.
“Merial is all about providing technology and products that allow customers to advance, particularly on the livestock production side. IGENITY gives customers the opportunity to do a better job in producing and selecting superior cattle,” adds DeHaan.
The process is relatively simple and starts with producers collecting DNA samples from calves, yearlings, bulls or heifers.
“It can range from a tissue sample taken using one of our IGENITY tags to a hair, blood or semen sample. We can utilize any of those samples to isolate DNA and perform our IGENITY profile,” explains DeHaan.
Producers mail the samples to IGENITY, and select from three different information profiles.
“The first choice is our overall, across all breeds IGENITY profile. It’s considered our seedstock profile and includes 14 economically important traits,” says DeHaan “The cost, per animal, for that profile is $38.”
“The second profile was just launched last summer and is an IGENITY profile developed specifically for replacement heifers. Some producers, especially commercial cattlemen, want to do a better job selecting desirable replacement heifers,” explains DeHaan. He adds the IGENITY profile for replacement heifers includes analysis on fertility, maternal calving ease, average daily gain, percent choice and tenderness. The cost is $20 a head.
“Our third product is an Angus specific profile on which we have collaborated with the American Angus Association,” explains De- Haan. “It includes over 20 of the economically important traits, and everything is Angus specific data.”
“All of the data generated from these profiles will be put into the genetic evaluation process the American Angus Association conducts, and will be used to generate EPDs,” says DeHaan. “The data will be funneled into EPD calculations, which will result in much higher accuracy levels, especially in younger, unproven cattle.”
The cost for the Angus specific profile is $65 per head.
DeHaan says turn around time is between two and four weeks. Producers will receive a hard copy of the results, which are all based on a one through 10 numbering system ranking animals for each trait. Results are also available through IGENITY’s website, where producers can get a username and password.
“Our field people will help the producer decipher the results and provide consultation as needed. We also have some really interesting software programs that help clarify the results and rank animals from best to worst based on one, or multiple, traits. We rely on our field people to work one on one with our customers to take the individual profiles and turn them into actionable information,” notes DeHaan.
“We are a registered Angus operation, and this will be our third year using IGENITY on our bulls. The first year we didn’t get on top of it soon enough, but last year we put it in our catalog. Our customer representative, Courtney Kealey, also wrote a letter describing how to read the one through 10 system, and a lot of our buyers really looked at it last year,” says Jim Felton of Felton Angus in Montana.
“We use ear tags purchased from IGENITY because those leave a little tag in the animal’s ear that matches them to the sample. It’s easy to do and might take an extra 30 seconds when the bulls are in the chute,” comments Felton.
He admits he was pleasantly surprised when he received the results from IGENITY the first year. “My dad has been raising Angus cattle for years, and he said he knew he had to be doing something right for the last 30 years. It’s a good tool for us and worth the money,” says Felton. He says one thing he is glad IGENITY modified was the cost associated with certain traits.
“Last year it was an outrageous additional charge to get feed efficiency information. But this year it’s available in the IGENITY profile, and I was happy to see that. I also wish the one through 10 scale was consistent – either with a higher or lower number being more desirable straight through. I think that for about eight out of 10 traits a higher number is better, then on the other two a lower number is more desirable. That causes confusion with some people,” explains Felton.
“It really opens a guy’s eyes. We were pleasantly surprised when we got the results for the first year. My dad has been raising Angus cattle for years, and he said he knew he had to be doing something right for the last 30 years. It’s a good tool for us and worth the money,” says Felton.
Neal and Amanda Sorenson of Powder River Angus, located north of Gillette, are another operation that utilizes IGENITY.
“We use it for parentage. Being able to manage my cattle in multi-sire situations has revolutionized my management and greatly improved my grazing system,” says Sorenson.
“We raise registered cattle, and, prior to using IGENITY, had to keep one bull with a group of cows and make sure the neighbor’s bull didn’t get in, which we all know is never 100 percent successful. Now if the neighbor’s bull gets in, I know for sure,” comments Sorenson, of one thing he particularly likes about IGENITY.
“We’ve used other companies to get parentage information, and IGENITY has worked much better for us. We like their tagging system and the fact that the information is fool-proof for what we want,” notes Sorenson.
He adds that for commercial cattlemen he can see IGENITY being a good tool for replacement heifer selection. “If you want to keep 40, and have 80 to choose from that essentially look the same, you could use IGENITY to sort them based on disposition, their ability to grade, or any other traits in which you’re interested. If you’re keeping that heifer in your herd for 10 years, she will more than likely produce the type of cattle you want,” he says.
One thing Sorenson says could be improved is the cost of the BVD test. “To get the BVD results through IGENITY, I have to pay for the entire profile, which I’m not interested in right now. I would prefer if they would break the BVD test off and offer it individually.”
“I’ve never had to re-do a sample with IGENITY, and our rep is really good at coming to visit with us and providing good customer service,” he says of other reasons he prefers IGENITY over companies he’s used in the past.
“I also think you will have a better idea of what your cattle will do, say if you take them to the feedlot. You could sort ahead of time, based on how they should grade, and the feeder should feed them accordingly. If you have a pen of select, choice and prime steers and feed them based on that information, the feeding industry should become more efficient, if the feeder is doing his job,” explains Sorenson.
“Regardless of herd size or breed, IGENITY has a product for every cattle producer,” says DeHaan. “We are really excited about where it’s going and the opportunity to help both seedstock and commercial cattlemen with their production programs.”
For more information visit Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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